updated 7/7/2008 11:54:59 AM ET 2008-07-07T15:54:59

A group of archaeologists found a pre-Columbian tomb containing well-preserved human remains, ceramics and jewelry near Peru's northern coast that could shed new light on the ancient Moche Indian culture.

The site in Ucupe — about 416 miles (670 kilometers) from Lima — may be related to other important Moche ruins in the area, including the famed Lords of Sipan tomb dating to 200 A.D. that was excavated in the late 1980s, dig co-director Bruno Alva said Saturday.

Alva said the team recovered one body wearing gold-colored copper funeral masks and wrapped in reed in the excavation that began in June. The researchers also found remains of a young man nearby and animals thought to be alpacas or llamas.

Among the objects uncovered were gold-colored copper crowns, earrings, nose rings, necklaces of silver, seashells and ceramics.

The remains most likely belonged to nobility, said Walter Alva, famed Peruvian archaeologist who discovered the Sipan site.

"Some elements like scepters and crowns of gold are those that identify people of the highest hierarchical level," said Walter Alva, who is the father of Bruno.

The objects recovered reflect quality workmanship, he added.

The research team includes Canadian and North American archaeologists and some 20 workers from the area. Alva says part of the excavation is going to conclude in July, but they hope to resume work in December.

The Moche were a pre-Columbian civilization known for ceramics, architecture and irrigation systems that thrived from about 100 A.D. to 800 A.D. in northern Peru.

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