29 Skeletons Found in Peru Rewrite History of Wari Culture

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29 Skeletons Found in Peru Rewrite History of Wari Culture

Archeologists excavating at an ancient temple site in northern Peru have discovered the remains of 29 bodies buried over 1,000 years ago. Having been

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Archeologists excavating at an ancient temple site in northern Peru have discovered the remains of 29 bodies buried over 1,000 years ago. Having been discovered so far from their traditional territory these skeletons are causing something of a stir and they could help rewrite the history of the Wari culture.

The Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum in  Lambayeque, Peru, contains hoards of Moche and Wari people artifacts and treasures. The Wari culture dominated much of the territory of the earlier Moche and later Chimu cultures. The Museum has now released images of the 29 human remains that were recently discovered at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala. This ancient ceremonial center is located in the coastal region of Lambayeque, about 750 kilometers (466 mi) north of the capital city of Lima.

The remains of 29 bodies, including remnants of the Wari culture, have been excavated at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala in northern Peru. ( Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán )

Putting the Moche and Wari Culture Remains in Context

The Moche culture , also known as the Mochica culture, developed from 100 to 700 AD on the northern Peruvian coast and the Wari were a Middle Horizon civilization that flourished between 600 to 1300 AD in the south-central Andes and coastal areas of modern-day Peru. The Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala enclosure was built between 800 and 900 AD by the Wari culture in the shape of the letter “D”.

According to Andina, the 29 skeletons were discovered by archaeologist Édgar Bracamonte Lévano, Director of the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá Project. During their excavations, three children and a teenager were found at the front of the temple which have been linked to the Wari culture . It is believed these four young people had been sacrificed, perhaps after an extreme drought or flood, when communities went to extremes to pacify their angered gods and goddesses.

The remaining 25 skeletons were from the Moche culture . These remains were discovered inside clay tombs and burial chambers within a temple. These human remains were found along with llama, alpaca and guinea pig remains. While this is not the first time child sacrifices and Moche burials have been discovered, what is so remarkable about this discovery is “where” it was made.

The remains of 29 bodies, including remnants of the Wari culture, have been excavated at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala in northern Peru. (Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán)

Archaeologist Édgar Bracamonte Lévano, Director of the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá Project, presenting the remains discovered during their excavations. ( Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán )

Wari Culture Burials Found “Far From Their Area of Influence”

The capital city of Wari was located 11 km (6.8 mi) north-east of the modern city of Ayacucho in Peru. Bracamonte told PHYS that this is the first time a discovery linked to the Wari civilization has been made “this far from their area of influence.” Firstly, before we explore the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala enclosure, let’s make sure we all know what a huaca is.

In the Quechuan languages of South America, a  huaca or wak’a is a deeply-spiritualized natural feature, like a huge rock or cliff face, but also manmade monuments, shrines and temples. The work of Tom Zuidema and Brian Bauer has shown how huacas were built along processional ceremonial routes known as ceques, and elaborate community-wide rituals and ceremonies centered around these sacred spaces and places. Not only was the Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala enclosure an important indigenous sacred site, but it is also exceptionally ancient.

Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala is a ceremonial center located in the coastal region of Lambayeque, in northern Peru. (Unidad Ejecutora 005 Naylamp Lambayeque)

Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala is a ceremonial center located in the coastal region of Lambayeque, in northern Peru. ( Unidad Ejecutora 005 Naylamp Lambayeque )

It’s Time to Rethink Wari Culture Migration Patterns

In 2019 Andina reported that Bracamonte led another team of researchers in a project to determine how the Wari culture was linked to the Mocha. Skeletons found in Huaca Santa Rosa de Lambayeque were radiocarbon dated and DNA studies showed how the site was founded more than 3,500 years old, and how Wari people slowly migrated to this archaeological site over time.

This sacred site remained of the greatest spiritual importance from the time of the Moche and Wari, right through the reign of the Incas until the arrival of the Spanish in the mid 16th century. Bracamonte said these new discoveries will provoke archaeologists interested in the history of Peru to “rethink the history of the Lambayeque region, especially the links to Wari and Mochica occupations in the area.”

Top image: One of the skeletons discovered at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucala which is helping rewrite the history of the Wari culture. Source: Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipán

By Ashley Cowie

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