Pachacamac j e c t / U L B
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Tthe sprawling sanctuary at Pachacamac, dedicated to a deity of the same name, was once one of the largest and most important religious centres in the Andean world, housing an oracle visited by pre-Columbian pilgrims from across the region.
Overlooking the Pacific Coast about 18 miles (30km) south of modern Lima, it was founded during Peru’s Early Intermediate Period (c.200 BC-AD 650), and flourished under the rule of both the Wari Empire and the Incas, who added to the complex with buildings dedicated to their own sun god. By the time Pizarro’s Conquistadors arrived in 1533, Pachacamac’s temples and stepped pyramids covered 600ha. Yet, within just a few years of Spanish conquest, it had been completely abandoned.
The city was first excavated by German archaeologist Max Uhle in the late 19th century; but since 1999, the Ychsma Project
LEFT Looking into the main burial chamber: archaeologists in Peru have uncovered the startling remains of a great tomb, surrounded by the bodies of newborn children.
Exploring a Peruvian chamber of secrets
Why were the bodies of a dozen newborn babies carefully placed around the edge of a 1,000-year-old tomb? Is this evidence of a society’s grim tribute to its dead? Peter Eeckhout and Lawrence Owens tell CWA about their unique discovery at the monumental pre-Columbian site of Pachacamac in Peru.
has been led by Professor Peter Eeckhout of the Université Libre in Brussels. This season, while investigating a cemetery first noted in 2004, the team made a surprise discovery of a huge tomb – ten times larger than any previously uncovered, and dating to the Ychsma culture of the Late Intermediate Period (c.AD 1000-1470).
‘We knew that the area contained burials, but previous finds had been modest,’ said Lawrence Owens, a University of London bioarchaeologist who is leading the project’s anthropological research. ‘This tomb is utterly unique.’
The 20m²-oval chamber (c.215ft²) had been dug directly in front of one of the site’s temples, and was covered with shaped logs
ABOVE LEFT Wooden masks, painted red, were placed on top of some of the mummy bundles.
LEFT A double-handled vase, decorated with the figure of a bird.