The ancient mummy is thought to have been sacrificed as part of a ritual surrounding the completion of a temple.
A group of students and researchers from San Marcos University in Peru recently discovered a 3,000-year-old mummy in Lima, dating it to before the Inca Empire.
As Ancient Origins reported, the students initially discovered the remains of the mummy’s hair and skull in a cotton and vegetable fiber cloth bundle while excavating, then later uncovered the rest of the mummy in a trash pile beneath eight tons of rubbish.
The students were led by archaeologist Miguel Aguilar, who explained that the mummy’s burial — laid out flat in a tomb at the center of a U-shaped enclosure — is characteristic of the Manchay culture which existed in the “formative era” between 1000 B.C.E. and 200 C.E.
This ancient culture, and others such as the Chavin and Paracas, quite literally laid the groundwork for the later civilizations that would emerge in the Central Andes region of Peru.
Aguilar explained that the mummy had likely been “offered [as a sacrifice] during the last phase of construction of this temple.” He went on to suggest that this sacrifice had been part of a “foundation ritual” common throughout South American regions during the construction of notable structures such as temples, pyramids, and palaces.
Scientists determined that the mummy was male, but they have yet to be able to date its origin precisely.
Per Reuters, the mummy was also found surrounded by corn, coca leaves, and seeds, which offers further evidence of the ritualistic nature of the burial. Also located near the body was evidence of ancient flies, indicating the body was left out for some time before it was buried.
The Manchay people were known for their exceptionally crafted and decorated pottery and intricate textiles. The Manchay were also notable for their long-distance trade with other cultures and for cultivating maize, beans, and squash.
Their sacred rituals were most often related to the rising sun, constructing their U-shaped enclosures known as “Ushnus” pointed towards the rising sun, which they believed represented a connection between the realms of Earth and the heavens. These spaces were utilized for several ceremonial religious rituals, including elaborate funerals.
Though the circumstances of its discovery in a trash heap may be unusual, it isn’t uncommon for mummies to be found around Lima. Later, in the same region, the Inca Empire would perform similar rituals that could sometimes involve human sacrifice.
Last year, a 1,000-year-old mummy of an adolescent was discovered on the outskirts of Lima at the Cajamarquilla site, a dig that has yielded multiple mummy specimens over the last few years. The location features a complex of pyramid ruins and was once a trading hub.
In another nearby mummy-related incident, a Peruvian man was detained by police earlier this year after it was discovered he had been carrying a 600- to 800-year-old mummy inside a cooler bag. The man told the media the mummy was his “spiritual girlfriend,” and that it had been brought home by his father around 30 years ago.
After reading about this newly unearthed mummy, read about another mummy found in a trash pile in Yemen — with its insides missing. Or, check out the 3,000-year-old Scottish weapon found beneath a soccer field site.