In this undated photo released by the National Geographic Society, remains of those interred in a mausoleum at El Castillo funerary complex lay exactly where Wari attendants left them some 1,200 years ago, in Huarmey, Peru. Archaeologist Krzysztof Makowski Hanula, the projectâs scientific adviser, believes the newly discovered imperial tomb is where all the Wari nobles of the region were buried. The Wari forged South Americaâs earliest empire between A.D. 700 and 1000. (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Milosz Giersz, )AP2012
This undated photo released by the National Geographic Society shows a pair of gold-and-silver ear ornaments that archaeologists believe a high-ranking Wari woman wore to her grave, the imperial tomb at El Castillo funerary complex, where they also discovered the remains of 63 individuals, including three Wari queens in Huarmey, Peru. A team of Polish and Peruvian archaeologists lifted more than 30 tons of crushed stone to find a pre-Inca royal tomb containing 63 mummies belonging to the ancient Wari culture, accompanied by an impressive wardrobe of 1,200 gold ornamental pieces, silver and ceramics. The Wari forged South Americas earliest empire between A.D. 700 and 1000. (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Daniel Giannoni)AP2013
In this undated photo released by the National Geographic Society, a Wari lord painted with eyes wide open, stares out from the side of a 1,200-year-old ceramic flask found in a newly discovered tomb at El Castillo funerary complex, Huarmey, Peru. A team of Polish and Peruvian archaeologists lifted more than 30 tons of crushed stone to find a pre-Inca royal tomb containing 63 mummies belonging to the ancient Wari culture, accompanied by an impressive wardrobe of 1,200 gold ornamental pieces, silver and ceramics. The Wari forged South Americas earliest empire between A.D. 700 and 1000. (AP Photo/National Geographic Society, Daniel Giannoni)
Archaeologists digging in Peru unearthed a royal tomb containing an impressive treasure trove and mummified women dating back to about 1,200 years ago.
The discovery was made at a dig site north of Lima and is believed to be the location of what was once part of the Wari empire, the society that ruled the Andes before the eventual rise of the better known Inca civilization.
“We have found for the first time in Peruvian archaeological history, an imperial tomb of the Wari culture," co-director of the project Milosz Giersz said, according to the BBC. "The contents of the chamber consisted of 63 human bodies, most of them women, wrapped in funerary bundles buried in the typical seated position, a native Wari pattern."
The Wari ruled much of what is today Peru’s central highlands from around 600AD to 1100AD. Not much is known about the society that was eventually taken over by the Incan empire and there is heated debate over whether or not the Wari actually can be considered an empire.
Some scholars claim that the people were just a loose economic network of Wari centers, while others claim the Wari had a complex empire, noting its construction of an extensive network of roadways linking provincial cities and the construction of complex, characteristic architecture in its major centers as proof.
Archaeologists at the site in Peru found more than 60 skeletons inside the royal chamber, including three purported Wari queens bedecked in gold and silver jewelry and surrounded by ceramics. Some of the mummies were discovered sitting upright, which indicates royalty.
Six other bodies were found in odd positions that scientists said indicate that they were human sacrifices.
"They were people thrown into the grave before the grave was sealed," bioarchaeologist Wieslaw Wieckowski said, according to Reuters. "They were lying on their bellies, in an extended position and their limbs went in different directions."
The archaeologists also indicated that they had kept their work quiet because they feared theft or damage of the site from grave robbers and treasure hunters.