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Peruvian mummies predate the Incas

Two of the oldest mummies ever found in Peru went on display Monday after being discovered by construction workers at a school.
A woman observes one of the two oldest mummies ever found in Peru in Arequipa. The mummies — a young boy and a man in his mid-30s — were discovered by construction workers at a school.Reuters
/ Source: Reuters

Two of the oldest mummies ever found in Peru — so well-preserved that one had an eye and internal organs intact — went on display Monday after being discovered by construction workers at a school.

Officials from the National Institute of Culture said the two mummies — a boy roughly 5 years old and a farmer in his mid-30s — were 700 to 900 years old. They came from a culture that predated the Incas, who dominated a vast swath of South America from Colombia to Chile until they were toppled by Spanish conquerors in the 1530s.

“What is striking is the level of conservation (of the mummies),” Lucy Linares, an archaeologist at the National Culture Institute, told reporters.

Linares told Reuters the man had one eye open and “you can see his eyeball. It’s perfectly preserved.”

When the workers moved the body, they accidentally made a hole in his side, displaying his intestines, she added. Fat adhering to the skin was also extremely well-preserved.

Found by workers
The mummies were found on Feb. 12. They were put on display at the institute for 30 minutes on Monday. They will now be cleaned and studied by archeologists. Linares said the man “was one of the oldest (mummies) ever found.”

The pair were found by workers at a state school in the coastal province of Islay, 79 miles (126 kilometers) south of Peru’s second city, Arequipa, as they dug a sports ground.

The clothing on the mummies and their style of burial identified them as being of the Chiribaya culture. The culture developed in the arid coastal stretch of northern Chile and southern Peru around A.D. 800 to 1350, over a distance of 170 miles (270 kilometers), and was notable for its highly decorative ceramics, according to historians.

The two bodies were buried separately, wrapped in red and blue alpaca cloth and tied with rope. They were place in the fetal position at a depth of 10 feet (3 meters), she added. Corn husks were found inside the funerary cloth.

'A natural death'
“It looks like it was a natural death. It seems the place was a cemetery,” Linares said. Archaeologists searched but found no more bodies.

She said the man was probably a farmer because he had bags of seeds attached to his belt and a spade by his side. The boy was buried in a small tomb of stones.

Archaeologists have uncovered thousands of mummies in Peru in recent years, mostly from the Inca culture five centuries ago, including about 2,000 unearthed from under a shantytown near the capital Lima in 2002.

One of Peru’s oldest and most famous mummies is “Juanita the Ice Maiden,” a girl who was preserved in ice on a mountaintop near Arequipa. She is believed to have been sacrificed some 500 years ago and was discovered in 1995.