Category Archives: SOUTH AMERICA

Archaeologists reveal the face of Peru’s ‘Ice Maiden’ mummy

Archaeologists reveal the face of Peru’s ‘Ice Maiden’ mummy

In a remarkable unveiling, the potential true appearance of “Juanita,” Peru’s iconic mummy, a teenage Inca girl sacrificed over half a millennium ago on the lofty Andean peaks, has been revealed.

The bust was unveiled at a ceremony at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa

A lifelike sculpture revealing the potential living face of Peru’s most famous mummy, a teenage Inca girl sacrificed in a ritual over 500 years ago on the Andean peaks, has been unveiled.

The reconstructed mummy, known as “Juanita” or “The Ice Maiden”, is the result of collaborative efforts between a team of Polish and Peruvian scientists, in conjunction with Oscar Nilsson, a Swedish sculptor renowned for his expertise in facial reconstructions.

Johan Reinhard, the US anthropologist who found the mummy said he could not have imagined having a precise reconstruction of the mummy.

It took over 400 hours for Nilsson to reconstruct “Juanita,” from the research given by the Polish team.

Who was “The Ice Maiden”?

Archaeologists reveal the face of Peru's 'Ice Maiden' mummy
The mummy known as “Juanita” and the “Inca Ice Maiden”

Reinhard and his Peruvian climbing partner, Miguel Zárate, discovered the mummy in 1995 at an altitude of more than 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) on the snow-capped Ampato volcano.

Juanita, the mummy, was almost entirely preserved in a frozen state, retaining her internal organs, hair, blood, skin, and even the contents of her stomach.

In addition to the mummy, they stumbled upon a multitude of items that had been left as offerings to the Inca gods.

These included llama bones, small figurines, and fragments of pottery, scattered across the mountain slope from which the body had tumbled down.

Anthropological research places the sacrificial date of Juanita between A.D. 1440 and 1450 when she was aged between 13 and 15.

The likely cause of her death was identified as a severe blow to the right occipital lobe, as determined by researchers at Johns Hopkins University who conducted a CT scan.

She is considered one of the best-preserved mummies in the Andes and her remains can currently be viewed at the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa, Peru

Archaeologists discover 1,000-year-old mummy in Peru

Archaeologists discover 1,000-year-old mummy in Peru

Archaeologists have discovered a 1,000-year-old mummy — believed to be of an adult individual — in Peru’s capital, Lima.

The mummy, which was discovered at the Huaca Pucllana archaeological site in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood, was found alongside two ceramic vessels and textiles.

The discovery becomes the latest in a string of ancient discoveries made in Peru this year.

A general view of Huaca Pucllana, an archaeological site in a residential neighborhood where the remains of a 1,000-year-old mummy were discovered, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 6, 2023.

“I find it quite interesting that right in the heart of Miraflores, in the middle of the city, surrounded by modern buildings and constructions, an important site is still preserved,” said lead archaeologist Mirella Ganoza.

Ganoza noted the mummy had long hair and was found seated with bent legs. The remains of the ancient figure were also found with its jaw and long hair still preserved.

A general view of Huaca Pucllana, an archaeological site in a residential neighborhood where the remains of a 1,000-year-old mummy were discovered, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 6, 2023.

The mummy is thought to date back to 1,000 A.D, belonging to the Yschsma culture, inhabitants of whom lived south of Lima.

“This discovery helps to complement the information we know about the Ychsma culture so far,” said Ganoza.

The discovery is the latest in string of century-old discoveries of mummies and pre-Hispanic remains made in Lima, including the discovery in June on a hilltop of a mummy found surrounded by cocoa leaves.

Archaeologists discover 1,000-year-old mummy in Peru
A general view of Huaca Pucllana, an archaeological site in a residential neighborhood where the remains of a 1,000-year-old mummy were discovered, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 6, 2023.

In March, a Peruvian man was arrested and charged for illegal possession of historical patrimony after he was found in a possession of a mummy believed to be 600 to 800 years old in his cooler delivery bag.

The Huaca Pucllana site is viewed as a Pandora’s Box and archaeologists anticipate that many more artifacts could be found.

A general view of Huaca Pucllana, an archaeological site in a residential neighborhood where the remains of a 1,000-year-old mummy were discovered, in Lima, Peru, Sept. 6, 2023.

Archaeologists Find Massive Underground World Belonging To A Long Lost Civilization In Peru

Archaeologists Find Massive Underground World Belonging To A Long Lost Civilization In Peru

Researchers in Peru have discovered a complex underground world belonging to the ancient Chavín culture that has been identified as burial chambers that date back thousands of years.

The culture developed in the northern Andean highlands of Peru between 1,300 and 550 BC. The Chavín extended its influence to other civilizations along the coast.

The Ancient Chavin civilization developed advanced knowledge not only in metallurgy, but in soldering, and temperature control. The ancient Chavin used early techniques to develop refined gold work.

Not, researchers have discovered galleries, ceramics and even a place where this civilization carried out burials, located beneath the surface. They say it’s the most important archaeological discovery made in the last 50 years.

Archaeologists Find Massive Underground World Belonging To A Long Lost Civilization In Peru
Seen in this image are the new underground galleries that have been found containing the first human burials of the Chavin period.

Since June of 2018, a team of archaeologists has unearthed three new galleries in an area adjacent to the circular plaza of Chavín. In the place, they have found remarkable pieces of ceramics, utensils and intact human burials.

According to an American anthropologist and archaeologist John Rick, in charge of the Archaeological and Conservation Research Program of Chavín, the three discovered galleries come from the late period of this civilization that developed between 1,300 and 550 BC.

“What these galleries show is that Chavín has a much larger underground world than we think,” said Rick.

The Ministry of Culture estimates that to date only 15% of the area has been explored.

Inside one of these underground galleries, archaeologists discovered artefacts that belonged to the later Huaraz culture.

These successive occupations, found at different levels in the archaeological complex demonstrate the cultural and religious importance that Chavin had in the central highlands for centuries.

The project’s specialists used small robots with built-in micro-cameras to carry out the explorations. These machines – designed on-site by engineers from Stanford University – entered very small areas and discovered cavities in the Chavin labyrinths, where pottery was preserved.

Chavin de Huantar was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. So far 35 interconnected underground passageways have been found at the site, Peru’s culture ministry said.

Tomb from the Ichma Culture found in Peru

Tomb from the Ichma Culture found in Peru

During excavations in Ancon, a district of northern Lima Province, Peru, archaeologists have revealed a tomb from the Ichma Culture.

Around the 11th century, the Ichma emerged in the valleys of the Lurin and Rimac Rivers to the south of Lima.

This pre-Inca culture endured until the 1469s when they were assimilated into the Inca Empire.

Tomb from the Ichma Culture found in Peru
The tomb contains remains, offerings, and the funerary bundle that was found along with various offering artifacts, such as mate vessels and ceramics.

It is thought that the Ichma were an Aymara-speaking population that settled in the coastal regions close to Lima in the aftermath of the Wari empire’s decline.

During this period, multiple tiny kingdoms and alliances were established, with the Chancay Culture ruling the northern part of Lima and the Ichma Culture dominating the southern part.

The Ichma had their capital, previously known as Ishma, called Pachacamac. There, they erected at least 16 pyramids and worshipped the deity Pacha Kamaq, the god of creation.

Calidda company workers made the archaeologists aware of the antique tomb when they were constructing a new pipeline.

This sepulcher dated back 500 years to the end of the Ichma period, and the body was placed in a hole, covered with plant-fiber blankets, and bound together with ropes tied in a geometric design.

At the burial site, there are several items meant to be used as funerary gifts, like pottery and containers for a mate — a type of herbal beverage made from dried leaves of the yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) plant, which many cultures in the Americas steep in hot water to make a caffeine-rich drink.

Caravedo, a representative of Calidda, stated that their company has assigned archaeologists to monitor their Gas Natural installation projects to ensure the preservation of the city’s archaeological landmarks.

Additionally, they collaborate with the Ministry of Culture to rescue and protect any discoveries.

‘Thunder floor’ found at ancient Andean site in Peru

‘Thunder floor’ found at ancient Andean site in Peru

An ancient “sounding” dance floor, perhaps designed to create a drum-like sound for a thunder god when stomped on, has been identified by archaeologists in Peru. Found at the site of Viejo Sangayaico, 200km southeast of Lima, the floor was built into an open-air platform sometime between AD1000 and AD1400.

‘Thunder floor’ found at ancient Andean site in Peru
A different drum: an open-air platform at Viejo Sangayaico that makes a deep percussive sound when stomped on may have been a “sounding” dance-floor used to venerate a nearby mountain deity of thunder and lightning

It then continued in use under Inca rule, from 1400 to 1532, and perhaps during the early years of the Spanish conquest.

“We know that in pre-Hispanic Andean rituals dance was a big part of the proceedings.

I believe that this specially constructed platform was built to enhance the natural sounds associated with dance,” says Kevin Lane, an archaeologist with the Instituto de las Culturas (IDECU) of the Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina, who led the research.

Funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the project’s findings have recently been published in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The dance floor was built on one of two open-air platforms close to a possible Inca temple dedicated to a lightning deity.

The platforms face the nearby mountain of Huinchocruz, where a pre-Hispanic ceremonial platform known as an ushnu stood.

“I believe that these open platforms would have been used during the pre-Hispanic period as a stage on which to venerate the nearby mountain gods, in this case those of Huinchocruz,” Lane says.

Because lightning deities were associated with rain and thunder in Andean belief, it is possible that the people of Viejo Sangayaico used the dance floor to imitate the sound of thunder, Lane explains. “This would likely have been accompanied by drums and possibly Andean wind instruments.”

The archaeologists first identified the sounding dance floor when they heard a hollow noise as they walked on it. “We realized that the platform was built to enhance sound when we started excavating it,” Lane says.

“We discovered that the platform had been dug and then infilled with specially prepared fills and surfaces to create a percussion effect. This involved four layers of camelid guano interspersed with four layers of clean silty clay.”

Lane says the dung layers contained small gaps which caused a deep, bass-like sound to be produced whenever people danced or stomped on the floor’s surface, which was around 10 meters in diameter.

“We reckon the platform could have held up to 26 people dancing in unison, making for a loud thumping sound,” Lane says, adding that the dust raised by the dancing may have been a visual feature.

The discovery raises the possibility that parts of other Andean sites may have been built to enhance sound. “We already knew this from sites like Chavin, but even during the late pre-Hispanic period it is possible that many sites had sectors specially prepared for this,” Lane says.

Another Andean site in Peru where the use of sound has recently been studied is Huánuco Pampa.

“The sounding dance platform is a fantastic find and it shows that, aside from instruments, the human body and the landscape could be employed musically,” Lane says. “It also brings past sounds to life, especially given that the past is mostly silent and lost to us.”

Archaeologists Discover Wreckage of Notorious Slave Ship Off Brazil

Archaeologists Discover Wreckage of Notorious Slave Ship Off Brazil

Archaeologists Discover Wreckage of Notorious Slave Ship Off Brazil
Illustration of an Atlantic slave trade or transatlantic slave trade ship that took place across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th through to the 19th centuries.

The wreckage of a 19th-century U.S. ship with more than 500 slaves on board may have been identified by archaeologists in the sea of ​​Angra dos Rei, Brazil, according to the local news outlet TV Prefeito.

Though researchers are still investigating, they believe it was a North American ship led by slave trader Nathanial Gordon, who was en route to deliver 500 enslaved Africans from Mozambique to Bracuí in Angra dos Reis in 1851.

Gordon illegally participated in the slave trade to Brazil, for which he was later tried, convicted, and executed under the Piracy Law of 1820.

Police had been chasing Gordon because the slave trade and the sailing of ships were illegal in Brazil and believe he may have sunk the ship to cover his tracks.

He lived as a fugitive for the next decade before being hung for his crimes in the U.S. in 1862.

Last year, archaeologists from the AfrOrigens Institute, the Fluminense Federal University, the Federal University of Sergipe, and multiple North American research institutions started searching for the ship.

Brazil was built on the enslavement of millions of Africans and Indigenous peoples. Research conducted by Princeton University observes that, “Of the 12 million enslaved Africans brought to the New World, almost half—5.5 million people—were forcibly taken to Brazil as early as 1540 and until the 1860s.”

Pedra do Inga: A 6,000-Year-Old Monument Depicting an Ancient Star Map

Pedra do Inga: A 6,000-Year-Old Monument Depicting an Ancient Star Map

Its most prominent symbols depict stars, the Milky Way as well as the constellation of Orion. Most glyphs etched on the massive stone represent animals, fruits, humans, and constellations, but also a plethora of yet unrecognizable symbols and images.

Its most prominent symbols depict stars, the Milky Way as well as the constellation of Orion

There’s a strange, massive stone located in the municipality of Ingá, in the interior of the Brazilian state of Paraíba called the Inga stone or Pedra do Inga.

On its surface, the ancients carved a series of intricate symbols, stars, and spirals.

The stone itself is massive; the rock formation covers an area of approximately 250 square meters.

Altogether primarily, a vertical wall 46 meters long by 3.8 meters high, and adjacent areas, there are entries whose meanings are unknown.

In addition to the stars, and spirals, ancient ‘astronomers’ carved other entries whose exact meanings remain a mystery to experts.

Despite this, scholars have agreed on the fact that depictions of stars, constellations, and ever galaxies are clearly visible on the rock’s surface.

While the exact age of the inscriptions is hard to tell, researchers argue that the rock formation can be dated back to around 6,000 years.

So far, experts have identified more than 400 engravings on the stone’s surface. Some of them are zoomorphic in nature, while others represent abstract symbols as well as stars.

There is a hypothesis that indicates the petroglyphs of Ingá are exceptionally important from an archaeoastronomical point of view.

Back in 1976, Spanish engineer Francisco Pavía Alemany began mathematically studying the archaeological monument.

His first results were published in 1986 by the Instituto of Arqueologia Brasileira (Pavía Alemany F. 1986). Alemany identified on the stone’s surface a series of “bowls” and another petroglyph etched into the vertical surface of the wall of Inga that formed a “solar calendar”, over which a gnomon projected the shadow of the first sun rays of every day.

Alemany later continued studying the stone bit this time focusing on recording and documenting a series of symbols on the surface where the observer could identify petroglyphs reminiscent of stars, that appeared to have been grouped together in what appeared to be constellations.

But it is the coexistence of the “bowls” and “constellations” on the rock’s surface which gives the Pedra do Inga its archaeoastronomical significance.

The site where the Inga Stone stands today is in constant danger of being damaged beyond repair by vandals.

People ‘finger painted’ the skulls of their ancestors red in the Andes a millennium ago

People ‘finger painted’ the skulls of their ancestors red in the Andes a millennium ago

People 'finger painted' the skulls of their ancestors red in the Andes a millennium ago
A close-up of an adult male cranium with applied hematite-based pigment that covers a fracture that occurred before the individual died.

Up to a millennium ago, the Chincha people in what is now Peru decorated their ancestors’ remains with red pigment, sometimes finger-painting their skulls as part of a ritual intended to give the dead a new kind of social life.

In a new investigation, researchers analyzed hundreds of human remains found in the Chincha Valley of southern Peru. Dating to between A.D. 1000 and 1825, the skeletal remains they studied were found in more than 100 “chullpas,” large mortuary structures where multiple people were interred together. The team’s goal, detailed in the March 2023 issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, was to investigate how and why red paint was applied to many of the bones.

What they discovered, however, was that different kinds of red paint were used and that only certain people were painted after death.

The use of red pigment in funeral rituals dates back thousands of years in Peru and is related to a prolonged process of dealing with deceased members of society. “Death was not the end,” the researchers wrote in the study. “It was a pivotal moment of transformation into another kind of existence, and a critical transition from one state to another, providing the basis for further life.” 

The researchers took samples of red paint from 38 different artifacts and bones, 25 of which were human skulls. Using three scientific techniques — X-ray powder diffraction, X-ray fluorescence spectrometry, and laser ablation ICP-MS, techniques that essentially analyze elements within a substance — they identified the composition of the red pigments.

Red paint on 24 of the samples came from iron-based ochres like hematite, 13 came from mercury-based cinnabar, and one was a combination of the two.

Further chemical analysis showed that the cinnabar was imported from hundreds of miles away while the hematite likely came from local sources. These differences may reflect elite and non-elite uses of the different kinds of paint, the study authors said.

This figure shows traces of red pigment found on the inside and outside of a disarticulated non-adult cranium. This suggests that pigmented hands held the cranium during painting.

Most of the individuals whose bones were painted were found to be adult males. However, the bones of women and children, as well as those of several people with healed traumatic injuries and people whose skulls were modified as babies, were also painted. 

By examining the skulls, the researchers figured out how the red paint was applied. “We know that Chincha peoples used textiles, leaves, and their own hands to apply red pigment to human remains,” study first author Jacob Bongers, an anthropological archaeologist at Boston University, told Live Science in an email. Thick vertical or horizontal lines of paint on skulls are consistent with someone using their fingers for application. 

“Finger painting would have been critical for forming close relationships between the living and the dead,” Bongers said. “The red pigment itself brings to light this living-dead relationship as well as social differences for others to see.”

Benjamin Schaefer, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Illinois Chicago who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email that this research “makes an important and exciting contribution to understanding the ritual economy of death in the Andes. The living hand-painting the dead after death offers an intimate and dynamic glimpse into social identities in the Chincha Valley.”

Material and skeletal remains with red pigment: a) shell container, b) ceramic figurine, c) textile, d) modified bird, e) worked bone wrapped in yarn.

One aspect of the process that Bongers and colleagues have not figured out yet is when the red paint was applied. While it is clear to them that the bones were painted after the individuals had been skeletonized, the actual act of painting might have been a response to colonization.

“Some painted bones, especially crania [skulls], were removed and placed over other graves, presumably to ‘protect’ the dead,” the researchers wrote. By integrating theories rooted in Andean concepts of death and cosmology with the scientific analysis of painted skeletons, they further suggest that transgressions against the dead, such as looting, would have required correction by the living. “We hypothesize that individuals reentered disturbed chullpas to paint human remains that had become desecrated after the European invasion,” the researchers wrote. 

“Their research provides a roadmap for others to follow,” Celeste Gagnon, a bioarchaeologist at Wagner College in New York who was not involved in the study, told Live Science in an email, “to create work that fulfills a unique promise of anthropology: bringing together humanistic and scientific understandings of the past.”