Peru finds ancient burial cave of warrior tribe
- Peru finds ancient burial cave of warrior tribe
By Robin EmmottThu Oct 5, 4:28 PM ET
Archeologists have uncovered a 600-year-old, large underground cemetery belonging to a Peruvian warrior culture, thought to be the first discovery of its kind, an official said on Thursday.
After a tip-off from a farmer in Peru's northern Amazon jungle, archeologists from Peru's National Culture Institute last week found the 820-feet-(250-meter)deep cave that was used for burial and worship by the Chachapoyas tribe.
So far archeologists have found five mummies, two of which are intact with skin and hair, as well as ceramics, textiles and wall paintings, the expedition's leader and regional cultural director Herman Corbera told Reuters.
"This is a discovery of transcendental importance. We have found these five mummies but I believe there could be many more," Corbera said. "We think this is the first time any kind of underground burial site this size has been found belonging to Chachapoyas or other cultures in the region," he added.
The Chacapoyas, a white-skinned tribe known as the "Cloud People" by the Incas because of the cloud forests they inhabited in northern Peru, ruled the area from around 800 AD to around 1475, when they were conquered by the Incas.
But their strong resistance to the Incas, who built an empire ranging from northern Ecuador to southern Chile from the 1400s until the Spanish conquest of the 1530s, earned them a reputation as great warriors.
They are best-known today by tourists for their stone citadel Kuelap, near the modern town of Chachapoyas.
In 1996, archeologists found six ancient burial houses containing several mummies, thought to belong to the Chachapoyas.
"The remote site for this cemetery tells us that the Chachapoyas had enormous respect for their ancestors because they hid them away for protection," Corbera said.
"Locals call the cave Iyacyecuj, or Enchanted Water in Quechua, because of its spiritual importance and its underground rivers," he added.
Corbera said the walls in the limestone cave near the mummies were covered with wall paintings of faces and warrior-like figures that may have been drawn to ward off intruders and evil spirits.
"The idea now is to turn this cave into a museum, but we've got a huge amount of research to do first and protecting the site is a big issue," Corbera said, adding that looters had already vandalized a small part of the cave in search of mummies or gold.
Archeologists have uncovered thousands of mummies in Peru in recent years, mostly from the Inca culture five centuries ago, including about 2,000 unearthed from under a shantytown near the capital Lima in 2002.
One of Peru's most famous mummies is "Juanita the Ice Maiden," a girl preserved in ice on a mountain.Fairies glide on the morning dew of roses, hidden in deep forests during the day, coming out to dance in the starlight.