Tomb find confirms women ruled ancient Peru
Archaeologists have discovered a tomb belonging to a powerful pre-Hispanic priestess in Peru, the eighth in more than two decades, confirming that women ruled the region approximately 1,200 years ago.
The burial chamber was found in the Cao religious compound belonging to the Moche civilisation, close to the city of Trujillo, Peru. The highly decorated tomb is made of clay and covered with copper plates in the form of waves and birds. Inside the tomb were the remains of the priestess surrounded by ceramic offerings, a mast and a knife, as well as the bodies of five children and two adults all of whom were sacrificed.
So far, the excavations within the cemetery of the Mochica elite have only turned up tombs with women, indicating the important role that women played in the Moche society. "This find makes it clear that women didn't just run rituals in this area but governed here and were queens of Mochica society," said project director Luis Jaime Castillo.
The Moche was a mysterious civilization who ruled the northern coast of Peru approximately two thousand years ago. They built huge pyramids made of millions of mud bricks and created an extensive network of aqueducts which enabled them to irrigate crops in their dry desert location. They were also pioneers of metal working techniques like gilding and soldering, which enabled them to created extraordinarily intricate jewellery and artefacts.
Little was known about the Moche civilization because they left no written texts to help explain their beliefs and customs. However, the discovery of detailed paintings and murals on pottery work and on temple walls has helped to provide insights into their culture and beliefs.
The artwork, as well as archaeological findings, has indicated that women were held with high esteem. It was the Moche priestesses who used to carry out the gruesome sacrifices. Adorned in gold, they would slit the throats of their victims and catch the blood in a golden goblet for the high priestess to drink. Excavated tombs revealing women buried with weapons and armour also indicate that they were fighting warriors. Still, much knowledge about the structure of Moche society remains to be discovered and understood.