Sacrificed Woman Discovered in Cao Ruins of Peru
Archaeologists investigating the Cao Viejo ruins at the El Brujo complex have found the mummified remains of a sacrificed woman of the Moche culture, which occupied Peru’s northern coastal valleys from about 100 to 800 AD. The woman, who was thought to have been between 17 and 19 years old at the time of her death, appears to have been killed through the ingestion of a toxic substance or by being strangled by a cord.
Cao Viejo is well known for its real life ‘Temple of Doom’ which rises up five stories above the main ceremonial plaza and was the site of gory human sacrifices in which losing warriors had their throats slit and their blood caught in goblets which was drunk by the priest and offered to the gods.
But the latest discovery of a sacrificed woman in the upper platform of the ruins was unexpected because archaeologists had believed that only men were sacrificed in the Moche culture, which mysteriously vanished about 500 years before the rise of the Inca. Their belief was based on the fact that the 1700-year-old murals, still plainly visible on the side of the temple, only depict male sacrificial victims.
Furthermore, a discovery in 2006 of an elaborately-painted burial chamber with the mummified remains of a fourth-century Moche ruler belonging to a woman, suggested that females were revered in their culture.
Régulo Franco, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation said: “Finding a woman has caused a lot of surprise and, even more, to know that she was buried face down with the head facing West in the direction of the sea with one arm extended and an otherwise normal posture, is way beyond anything we have known up to now.”
Franco added: "we suppose that, after having been sacrificed, her lifeless body was dropped into a previously prepared pit."
The discovery has caused a significant shift in archaeological conceptions surrounding the Moche culture.