A pre-Columbian mass grave discovered in Peru
Excavations at Chan Chan in northern Peru have unearthed a pre-Columbian mass grave.
The citadel of Chan Chan was the capital of the Chimú Empire, which controlled part of northern Peru from the year 900 until 1470, when it was defeated by the Incas. The site covers more than 20 km2 and is made up of a series of walled enclosures. The latest discovery was during the fourth season of excavations in the Utzh An compound, in an elevated section of the site.
The remains of 25 individuals were found in a space of 10 m2 and seem to belong mainly to young women, all under the age of 30, as well as a few teenagers and children. It has been suggested that they may have been members of the Chimú elite, but it is hoped that further investigations will reveal more about these people and their cause of death. Although the Chimú are known to have practiced human sacrifice, senior archaeologist Jorge Meneses Bartra points out that it is currently not possible to say if this is the case here.
The tomb appears to contain both primary and secondary burials, with some skeletons found in their original anatomical position, while others are disarticulated and show signs of bleaching, suggesting they were exposed to the elements. before burial. Archaeologists propose that there may have been two phases of use at the site: direct burials soon after the individual’s death, in the initial stage when Utzh An was at its peak; followed by a later phase where the funerary remains were brought from elsewhere to be deposited in the same graves as the first group of individuals. This discovery offers an interesting new insight into Chimú mortuary practices.
Some of the deceased were buried in a seated position with their legs bent, wrapped in a layer of cotton followed by a second layer of plant fibers. Many people were buried with items associated with textile production, such as metal needles, wooden spindles and callhuas (backstrap trades), reflecting the importance of the industry. Archaeologists have also discovered vs.49 ceramic vessels among the burials, and discovered that the grave appears to have been sealed with a mud mixture containing ceramic fragments, which may have functioned as a grave marker.
Other burials have also been discovered in the western part of the site since 2020 and researchers expect to encounter more in the eastern sector during future excavations, suggesting that this whole elevated area could be a prehispanic cemetery.