Researchers from the National University of San Marcos found the body preserved underground in the middle of the town square at the Cajamarquilla archaeological site, about 25 kilometers inland from Lima.
Pieter Van Dalen Luna, one of the archaeologists leading the excavation, said: “The discovery of this inhabitant sheds new light on relationships and interactions during the pre-Hispanic period.
He told CNN that the mummy is most likely a young man between 25 and 30 years old who came from the mountains to Cajamarquilla, which was a busy commercial center in pre-Colombian times.
Excavation work began in mid-October with a team of 40 people led by Van Dalen Luna and archaeologist Yomira Huamán Santillán, and the find was surprising because they weren’t looking for mummies.
“The whole team is really happy because we didn’t think this was going to happen,” Huamán told CNN. “We didn’t expect to make such an important discovery.”
Another unexpected find was some marine mollusks outside the mummy’s tomb, which Van Dalen Luna said was unusual because Cajamarquilla was about 25 kilometers from the coast.
Van Dalen Luna said: “After the body was placed in the mausoleum, there were events and activities that kept happening. “That is to say, their descendants keep coming back for years and placing food and offerings there, including mollusks.”
The lama’s bones were also found outside the mausoleum, and Van Dalen Luna said this was a common dish eaten by people at that time and so pieces of llama meat would be offered to the deceased.
The circumstances of the discovery led the researchers to conclude that this was not an ordinary citizen, but could have been an important person in contemporary society.
“Finding a mummy with these features in the middle of the square clearly shows that this was a person of high status,” said Van Dalen Luna, adding that among other options, the person in question could be a top trader.
The team will now perform more specialized analyzes including carbon dating that will allow them to narrow down how long the person lived and get more details about their identity.