1,500-Year-Old Claws Intrigue Archaeologists in Peru

Image: Moche claws
An archaeologist shows a pair of metal claws found at a tomb from the Moche culture, recently excavated at the Huaca de la Luna archaeological site in the Peruvian city of Trujillo. Luis Alvitres / Reuters

Archaeologists in Peru say they have unearthed the previously unknown tomb of a nobleman from a pre-Inca civilization known as the Moche. The tomb contained the remains of an adult male, plus artifacts indicating the man's elite status, according to the Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.

Among the most intriguing artifacts are ornamental metal pieces fashioned to look like feline paws with claws. The paws may have been part of a ritual costume used in ceremonial combat, El Comercio reported. The loser would be sacrificed, while the winner would get the costume.

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Image: Peruvian archaeologists discover tomb of an noble man from Moche culture
This claw and fangs, discovered in the tomb of a Moche nobleman, may have been used as part of a ritual costume, archaeologists say. EPA

Archaeologist Santiago Uceda, co-director of the Huaca de la Luna excavation in the Peruvian city of Trujillo, displayed the pieces as well as a copper scepter, bronze earrings, a mask and ceremonial ceramics on Thursday. "The scepter signifies power; the earrings, status; and the ceramic piece is typical of an elite personage," Uceda told El Comercio.

He said the tomb and its contents, which are thought to be 1,500 years old, could shed new light on the Moche culture, an agricultural and artistic society that collapsed around the year 800.