The double burial of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests, Pacopampa, Peru.

Lost for 2 700 years: Tomb of the Serpent Jaguar Priests Uncovered in Peru

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A very interesting tomb has been uncovered in San Pedro de Pacopampa, Chota Province, Cajamarca Region, Peru. The tomb contains a double burial of what is believed to be high-ranking priests from the Pacopampa culture (a contemporary of the Chavin culture) of the Pre-Inca Formative Period. Elaborate grave goods were placed alongside the individuals who were buried around the same time as the previously encountered Lady of Pacopampa .

The two individuals were buried in the fetal position, with one facing the North and the other the South, according to La Republica . They were found in the same position and a similar location at the Pacopampa site to where the Lady of Pacopampa was discovered in 2009.

The remains of the Lady of Pacopampa, discovered in 2009

The remains of the Lady of Pacopampa, discovered in 2009 ( Proyecto Arqueologico Pacopampa )

Lead researcher of the joint venture of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos of Peru and the National Ethnology Museum from Japan, Dr Yuji Seki, stated that "These personages were found adjacent to the East side of the square courtyard of the third platform. This courtyard was the scene of public meetings where ceremonial activities were held involving the consumption of food and beverages. Perhaps these individuals directed and participated in these feasts."

Map of the Pacopampa archaeological site, Chota Province, Cajamarca region, Peru.

Map of the Pacopampa archaeological site, Chota Province, Cajamarca region, Peru. ( Proyecto Arqueológico Pacopampa )

Along with the bodies, an elaborate necklace of 25 gold beads was found as well as a unique black ceramic bottle in the shape of a serpent with a jaguar head (from which the priests have received their nickname). 

Close-up of the jaguar face of the black ceramic bottle discovered at the double tomb in Pacopampa, Peru

Close-up of the jaguar face of the black ceramic bottle discovered at the double tomb in Pacopampa, Peru ( Wilfredo Sandoval/El Comercio )

Different colored pigments, believed to be deliberately placed , were found in front of the skull of one of the individuals. These mineral deposits include portions of: cinnabar (red), malachite (green), hematite (dark brown), magnetite (shiny black), and calcite (white color). The meaning of these mineral and color choices has yet to be determined.

The gold necklace and some of the minerals placed in the Tomb of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests, Pacopampa, Peru

The gold necklace and some of the minerals placed in the Tomb of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests, Pacopampa, Peru ( Wilfredo Sandoval/El Comercio )

Another intriguing feature of the skeletons is the supposed elongated craniums . This feature of the skulls, combined with the grave goods present and their location at the site, provides a context that suggests to the researchers that the two bodies were elite members of the society. This is surprising for the team, who previously believed that there were no high-status persons in the Pacopampa culture. The new discovery also indicates to the researchers in the Proyecto Arqueologico Pacopampa that the site may have been a monumental ceremonial center at one time.

Dr. Yuji Seki in front of a section of the Pacopampa archeological site, Cajamarca region, Peru.

Dr. Yuji Seki in front of a section of the Pacopampa archeological site, Cajamarca region, Peru. ( El Comercio )

Seki said in a statement that next year they will complete a study to find out the sex and age of the two priests. They are also “unsure if there are other remains to be found below the bodies” just discovered. Thus excavations will continue if the researchers are successful in their request for more funding.

Featured image:  The double burial of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests, Pacopampa, Peru. ( Ahora Digital )

By Alicia McDermott

Comments

Good point Tom. We humans often see things as a puzzle and try to make all the pieces fit. It is great to share ideas and try to discover more though using the evidence we have at hand, no?

True, we cannot be sure that the bodies are of priests or men. The statements from the leaders of the study suggest that they assumed priests due to the location of their burial and higher status that the religious leaders (who were typically men) often held. But as the nearby body of an apparently high-status female was also found we cannot be sure!

Why do they assume priests?  The gold necklace doesn’t seem very priestly to me.  More like a rich person.  

We humans have a need to “know” and “explain” things, and have a very hard time just accepting we don’t know.  

Whether priests or something else, it still seems like a fascinating find.  Why two men?  Did they both die at the same time from natural causes?  I doubt that.  So did one die and the other have to die for some ceremonial reason?  Or did someone kill both of them for some ceremonial reaons or for some other reason?  It didn’t sound from the article like they had signs of trauma, but some trauma doesn’s show readily and people can kill other people without inflicting bodily trauma, such as with poison or suffocation.

The more we find out about the past, the more likely we will figure things out.  

 

Tom Carberry

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