Archaeologists in Peru have made an incredible discovery – 73 burial bundles from the Wari Empire period found undisturbed at the archaeological site of Pachacamac, near Lima.

The bundles contained mummified remains, some with exquisitely carved wooden masks and ceramic “false heads”. This find provides new insights into the Wari culture and how they prepared and honored their dead.

Pachacamac has long been an important religious site for many ancient Andean civilizations. Located on the central coast of Peru, it featured a famous temple and was an oracle location for a fertility deity.

The newly discovered graves date back to around 800-1100 AD, when the Wari Empire was at its peak of expansion along the coast.

The burials were found in layers underneath the terraces of a later Inca temple. They had been carefully placed in bundles made of cloth or plant materials.

Many bundles were individually placed, while some were found in family groups. Due to their protected location under fallen adobe walls, 19 bundles were remarkably well-preserved with intact structures.

Archaeologists were amazed to find some bundles contained wooden masks or ceramic “false heads” carefully positioned on the deceased. These ornate additions were used to prepare the dead for their afterlife journey.

Other bundles contained clues about the individuals buried, such as signs of warfare injuries or disabilities they had in life.

Radiocarbon dating and artifacts found in the area date the burials precisely to the Wari Empire period. This challenges previous ideas that Pachacamac continuously functioned as a major religious site from earliest times.

Instead, it seems to have been a ceremonial center and residential area during Wari rule. Rituals and iconography reflected coastal northern traditions more than motifs from Wari heartland sites.

The well-preserved mummies, masks, and bundle wrapping will allow for detailed studies of the Wari people using modern scientific techniques, like CT scans.

This discovery enhances our understanding of Wari imperial influence along the coast and cultural practices surrounding death and ancestor veneration during this important period in ancient Andean history. It is a remarkable window into the past.


Sources

J. Chyla, Seventy-three intact burials with carved masks discovered at Pachacámac


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