A female mummy,
baptized the Lady of Cao, with complex tattoos
on her arms has been found in a ceremonial
burial site in Peru, the National Geographic
Society reported Tuesday. Archaeologists say is
one of the best-ever relics of a civilization
that ended more than 1,300 years ago.
The mummy was
accompanied by ceremonial items including
jewelry and weapons, and the remains of a
teenage girl who had been sacrificed,
archaeologists reported. Such a complete array
has never been seen before in a Moche tomb.
The presence of gold
jewelry and other fine items indicates the mummy
was that of an important person, but
anthropologist John Verano of Tulane University
said the researchers are puzzled by the presence
of war clubs, which are not usually found with
archaeologists, under the direction of lead
scientist Régulo Franco, made the discovery last
year at an ancient ceremonial site known as El
Brujo - “the Wizard”.
The tomb lay near
the top of a crumbling pyramid called Huaca Cao
Viejo, a ruin near the town of Trujillo that has
been well known since colonial times.
Verano said the
finding is the first of its kind in Peru, and he
likens it to the discovery of King Tut's tomb in
"We have an entire
repertoire of a very high status tomb, preserved
perfectly," Verano said.
The burial site that
held the tattooed mummy was part of an ornate
enclosure holding four graves, at a ceremonial
site known as El Brujo — “the Wizard” on Peru’s
north coast, near Trujillo.
They said the woman
was part of the Moche culture, which thrived in
the area between A.D. 1 and A.D. 700. The mummy
was dated about A.D. 450.
The woman had
complex tattoos, distinct from others of the
Moche, covering both arms and other areas. Bone
scarring indicated the woman had given birth at
least once. The cause of her death was not
Verano said she
would have been considered an adult in her
prime. Some Moche people reached their 60s and
The grave also
contained headdresses, jewelry made of gold and
semiprecious stones, war clubs, spear throwers,
gold sewing needles, weaving tools and raw
“Perhaps she was a
female warrior, or maybe the war clubs and spear
throwers were symbols of power that were funeral
gifts from men,” Verano said. In the thousands
of Moche tombs previously exposed, no female
warrior has been identified.
Verano, who has been
working with the El Brujo project since 1995,
said the area is "one gigantic cemetery" that
has been scoured by grave-robbers for centuries.
But the newly found
funerary chamber had been sealed from both
looters and the elements since around A.D. 450.
The Peruvian team
found the complete burial array intact and
perfectly preserved, down to the white cotton
wrappings of the mummy bundle.
said Moche authority Christopher Donnan, an
anthropologist at the University of California,
Los Angeles, who was not part of the excavation.
"This is far and away the best preserved Moche
mummy that has ever been found."
The find is
described in the June issue of National
The Peruvian team is
funded by the Augusto N. Wiese Foundation and
Peru's National Institute of Culture.
Verano's research is
funded by the National Geographic Society's
Committee for Research and Exploration.
(National Geographic News is part of the
National Geographic Society.)
The culture of the
Moche, who constructed the largest adobe pyramid
in the Americas, the Moche Sun Pyramid,
developed along Peru's northern coast near what
is now the country's third-largest city
Trujillo. It flourished in the river valley
oases from 100 A.D. to 800 A.D. The Lady of Cao
dates to 450 A.D.
The Moche were later
conquered by the Chimus, who were known for
elaborate irrigation systems and built Chan
Chan, one of the world's largest adobe cities.
They in turn were
conquered by the Incas, who built a civilization
that stretched from the Equator to the Pacific
coast of Chile and are best known for the Machu
Picchu citadel in southern Peru.
Their rule came to
an abrupt end in the 1530s when they were
subjugated by the Spanish Conquistadors.
The Moche's Huaca
Cao Viejo pyramid is covered in reliefs that
suggest prisoners were sacrificed to the gods by
a warrior-priest. It was abandoned for
Moche pottery has
been the main way that experts had interpreted
their culture. The ceramics showed the Moche had
well-developed weaving techniques, but because
of rainstorms every few decades, most of their
textiles have been destroyed.
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Tattooed 5th century Pre-Inca woman
with jewelry found in Peru
Pre-Inca Woman found in ancient site
Pre-Inca Woman a warrior princess?
First female Moche leader discovered
Moment 600 years ago that terror
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October 17, 2006. Source:
Since its discovery in 2005, Caup
Mecherroec, or, as she is more commonly known, Senora de Cao, has
captured global attention for her prestige and importance in the
Mochica culture, a Pre-Incan civilization originating from the
northern coast of Peru.
The mummy, who stood at 4.8 feet tall and was between 20-25 years
old, as well as all of her noble possessions that were buried with
her, will form part of a plan to create a special exhibition gallery
in the very location dedicated to her as a mausoleum.
The exhibition will include a richly decorated mural, and is located
at the summit of Huaca Cao Viejo in the archaeological complex of El
Brujo. The El Brujo complex is located in the town of Magdalena de
Cao in the Chicaza Valley, just 45 minutes from the city of
Trujillo. The exhibition will open in spring 2007.
Visitors to the exhibition will be amazed to see how well preserved
the body is which was a result of the meticulous treatment and
preparation of a complicated Mochica ritual that included the
application of cinnabar, a red mineral that inhibits the
decomposition of the skin and tissues.
Furthermore, her face was covered with a piece of cotton cloth and
protected by a bowl-shaped piece of gilded copper. In addition, her
burial site which was in a dry location also contributed to her
state of preservation.
During the Senora de Cao exhibit, visitors can see this prestigious
leader s possessions and emblematic objects, among them her symbolic
tattoos which include a spider, nocturnal animals and a serpent on
her forearms, ankles and fingers which contributed to her eminent