- A group of archaeologists uncovered a “unique” pre-Incan mummy in Peru.
- The man was found bound in a fetal position, clasping his hands to his face.
- Clues around him suggest he was a high-status person, an expert told Insider.
The mummified remains of a man bound in the fetal position were recently uncovered in Peru in a find remarkable because of the good condition of the body.
The remains of the man were found in a pose of clasping the hands to the face, a gesture likely of religious significance, an expert told Insider.
His burial site “makes it clear that this is someone of high status,” Pieter Van Dalen Luna, the archaeologist, told CNN.
The man would have been younger than 35 and is estimated to have been buried 800 to 1,200 years ago, per a statement released by the team from the National University of San Marcos, Lima, who made the discovery.
That’s before westerners reached Peru, and even before the Inca civilization.
This is an “exciting” discovery because the body is in “such great preservation,” Dagmara Socha, a bioarchaeologist from the Centre for Andean Studies at the University of Warsaw, told Insider.
“The problem in many sites in southern America is that they’re extensively robbed by the grave robbers, so you need to be very lucky to find a mummy intact like this,” she said.
“We can make a lot of investigation of such a body, including the investigation of ancient DNA,” she said.
The remains, uncovered in an October excavation, were found in Cajamarquilla near Lima, Peru “one of the biggest” archeological sites in South America, Socha said.
Although in ruins now, around the time the mummy was buried, Cajamarquilla would have looked very different.
“It would have been covered by the ceremonial plaza where there were sacrifices and where they were celebrating some rituals,” she said. An adobe brick pyramid would have towered over the local landscape, she said.
The area would have been sacred, dedicated to rites, and people wouldn’t have lived there most of the year.
In the case of this particular mummy, the remains were found in an oval funeral chamber in a coveted spot: just below the town square.
The chamber was large, about ten feet long, per CNN. The center of Cajamarquilla was “devoted for the person that were most important,” said Socha.
“This is also showing that this person was in high social status,” like “an important warrior ” or a priest, Socha said.
These people would have typically been buried with others who were “sacrificed to be their companion in the afterlife,” said Socha.
According to Reuters, this man was buried with the remains of at least two infants.
The position the mummy was found in has some religious significance to it, and is not uncommon among Peruvian mummies, Socha said.
The mythology for people from the mountainous regions of Peru dictated that “if you put someone in the same way that he is in the womb, that it makes more possible for him to rebirth in the afterlife,” she said
Scientists are currently working to uncover the man’s identity, Van Dalen Luna told CNN.
While the scientists continue to study the mummy to uncover more of his secrets, the man’s body and other items found with it were moved to San Marcos University in Lima in December, per Reuters.