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An archaeologist working in one of the tombs found at the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site in Lima, Peru.

Four Pre-Inca Burials Discovered at 1500-year-old Site in Peru

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Four burial sites have been unearthed in a cemetery recently discovered at the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site located in the residential neighborhood of Miraflores, in Lima, Peru. One archaeologist has noted that the location of the human remains, and the grave goods with them, suggests that they were of the upper class of the Ichma culture.

Regarding the nature of the burials, archaeologist Isabel Flores, who has been researching the site for 35 years and is the director of the program in Huaca Pucllana, told Phys.org that “There are four human burial sites, for adult individuals, three women and one man, who lived between the years 1000 to 1450 [during the Ichma occupation of the site].” Peru reports says that the remains were found in a seated position “facing the sea and surrounded by pottery and textiles.”

Mirella Ganoza, the archaeologist who first discovered the remains, told La Prensa that "We also found in the tombs instruments like needles, rolls of thread and lengths of cloth, which tells us they worked in the textile industry." She also said “Our hypothesis is that they were involved in politics, religion or of high status. This site was not chosen at random.”

Archaeologist Mirella Ganoza examining one of the burials in Lima, Peru.

Archaeologist Mirella Ganoza examining one of the burials in Lima, Peru. ( Ángel Chávez/La Republica )

The Ichma (Ychma or Ychsma) culture was one of the first two great cultures (the other being the Chancay culture ) that arose in the area of Lima following the breakup of the Wari Empire. Their area of influence extended from the Lurin Valley south of Lima to the Rimac Valley further north, and they are known for having constructed and remodeled many of the archaeological structures currently found in Lima.

Two important archaeological sites the Ichma have been noted for creating are Puruchuco and Cajamarquilla. The Ichma also are said to have inhabited the site of Pachacamac, where they continued to grow their religious influence over the region and built 16 pyramids. The Ichma culture reached its end in the 1400s, when they were overtaken by the Inca.

The Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun) at Pachacamac, Lima, Peru.

The Templo del Sol (Temple of the Sun) at Pachacamac, Lima, Peru. ( CC BY 3.0 )

According to Flores, the Ichma were not the first to inhabit the Huaca Pucllana site – the Lima culture (100-650 AD) came first and created the stepped pyramid to make offerings to their gods. The Lima culture was followed by the Wari, and then finally the Ichma. When the Ichma arrived at the site, they set up on the western side of the stepped-pyramid, where it is reported “they could dry their crops and where they made offerings of ceramic containers and food.”

The “grand” stepped pyramid of Huaca Pucllana is an adobe structure, that measures 20 meters (65.6 feet) tall and covers over six hectares. It has seven platforms, and Flores believes that the Ichma conducted human sacrifices on the sixth step. She also asserts that the Ichma sacrificed frogs at the site, with the goal of pleasing their gods, so they would create rain.

Part of the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site, Lima, Peru.

Part of the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site, Lima, Peru. ( CC BY 2.0 )

Both Flores and Ganoza remain cautiously hopeful that more material remains will be unearthed in the future at the site. As Flores told El Universo : “ These are the first four tombs of the Ichma culture. It could be that we find more tombs, even though this sacred place has been looted since the time of the Spanish (Conquistadors).”

The current discovery also laid way for a representative from the Peruvian Ministry of Culture to point out that the management and restoration work that has taken place at Huaca Pucllana has been possible by the revenues that a private company received through ticket sales and business at the on-site restaurant. Culture ministry official Crizia Malaga told Peru Reports that “The public-private cooperation model works for conserving our heritage, Huaca Pucllana is an example.”  

This statement was made in the wake of the recent repealing of a law allowing “private companies to manage and restore other archaeological sites in Peru,” leaving the Cultural Ministry scrambling to find another way “to care for the thousands of archaeological sites which the government does not have the resources to develop or protect.”

Featured Image: An archaeologist working in one of the tombs found at the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site in Lima, Peru. Source: El Comercio

By: Alicia McDermott

 

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