Category Archives: SOUTH AMERICA

Chimu Farming Site Uncovered in Peru

Chimu Farming Site Uncovered in Peru

An important archaeological find has been made by researchers from San Marcos University (UNMSM) in the Chicama Valley, located in the La Libertad region.

A new archaeological landscape of the Chimu Culture —between 500 and 600 years old— has been discovered in this area.

San Marcos University reported that the archaeological site discovered in El Oso ravine, within the framework of the Chicama Archaeological Program, is believed to demonstrate the agricultural orientation of the Chimu Culture.

With this discovery, previous research and the San Marcos team suggest that the site was mainly used for agricultural production purposes, which is inferred because the channel that connects the Chicama River waters and various areas of the Moche Valley flows very close to the settlement.

According to Henry Tantalean, the archaeologist leading the San Marcos team, the site belongs to the Chimu period and comprises three buildings that are very similar to one another, albeit on a smaller scale than the Chan Chan citadel.

In addition, he explained that it has around 40 hectares of cultivated fields that used to be irrigated using an ancient technique involving a series of channels.

For her part, archaeologist Carito Tavera affirmed that the importance of this discovery and the interest in continuing the works at the site is because this demonstrates the long tradition of the Chicama Valley to allocate spaces for cultivation and large-scale agricultural production for the sustainability of people in this area of northern Peru.

In this way, the establishment of a settlement in this place shows that the Chimu people were interested in managing the area of the valley and did great construction works to expand their agricultural frontiers, something that they are doing even nowadays.

During the excavation process, after removing large rocks, archaeologists found traces of what was a great wall —at least two meters high— that surrounded the site, as well as a fairly preserved and compacted floor covered with sand that the wind brings.

Children’s Teeth Reveal Breastfeeding Practices in Ancient Peru

Children’s Teeth Reveal Breastfeeding Practices in Ancient Peru

For thousands of years, breastfeeding habits have remained almost unchanged in the Peruvian Andes, according to an unprecedented research project at an archaeological site in Caral, the oldest civilisation in the Americas and the origin of Andean culture.

There, in a cemetery filled with the bodies of children believed to be buried around 500 B.C., researchers discovered that the way these kids were breastfed was akin to how mothers do it in modern-day rural communities in the Andes.

Tooth analysis of the remains of 48 children showed that the majority were breastfed exclusively for the first six months and were not completely weaned until 2.6 years of age, which is still the case in the most rural and traditional Andean populations.

“We expected a younger age, like in modern times, where due to work issues and social pressures, children are weaned practically at 9 months,” Luis Pezo-Lanfranco, the Peruvian bioarchaeologist leading the study, tells Efe.

Pezo-Lanfranco says that it is very likely intermittent breastfeeding occurred in Caral, the civilization that developed 130 kilometres (over 80 miles) north of Lima between the years 3,000 to 1,800 B.C.

To be sure, researchers need to find a cemetery from that period. A few burial sites from that time in Caral have been recovered but the preservation of bones was too poor to find stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, which reveal breastfeeding patterns.

Researchers are nevertheless confident that those breastfeeding habits found in infants buried in Chupacigarro ravine cemetery, just a kilometre from the sacred city of Caral, were inherited from the Americas’ first civilization.

“In Caral, many cultural forms were created that are traditional for the Andes,” says Pedro Novoa, deputy director of Caral research and conservation of materials.

While the discovery of a cemetery that would confirm the Caral researchers’ hypothesis has evaded them, indications of the significance that breastfeeding held in this primitive society have been found in several nearby urban centres.

It can be seen in a series of clay statuettes representing women breastfeeding their infants and others who hold their babies in their laps, in an allegory of motherhood discovered in Vichama, one of Caral’s 12 urban centres.

Children’s Teeth Reveal Breastfeeding Practices in Ancient Peru

According to the study, it is still not clear whether that long breastfeeding period was a nutritional supplement or was due to food shortages.

Ruth Shady, the director of Caral archaeological investigations, says the high infant mortality may have been due to drought and famine.

“The drought is the main problem they faced, and it is very possible that this was what caused death among these children,” adds Shady, who has been studying Caral since 1994.

Peru: Skeletal remains of 25 people found at Chan Chan archaeological site

Peru: Skeletal remains of 25 people found at Chan Chan archaeological site

According to an Andina report, the remains of 25 people and some 70 artefacts and ceramic vessels have been uncovered in a raised area near the southern wall at Chan Chan, the 1,100-year-old Chimu capital on the coast of northern Peru. 

Peru: Skeletal remains of 25 people found at Chan Chan archaeological site

It was located in Trujillo Province (La Libertad region) – archaeologists behind this important find have reported.

According to Jorge Meneses —head of the archaeological research project— this find is unusual due to its characteristics and location in a raised area of ​​the Utzh An (Great Chimu) walled complex.

“Most of them (the remains) belonged to women under 30 who were buried with objects used in textile activities, a couple of children, and a couple of teenagers.

It is a very specific population, not too young considering the average human lifespan was 40 years, “I have remarked.

Meneses said that this discovery took place three weeks ago during the fourth season of works on the southern wall at Chan Chan. 

The skeletal remains were found in an area of ​​10 square meters, arranged in two levels of the embankment, along with approximately 70 vessels and objects used in textile work.

Burial place for Chimu elite

For her part, Sinthya Cueva —head of the Chan Chan Archaeological Research Program— confirmed that the discovery took place three weeks ago and may have been a burial place for members of the Chimu elite.

“This is something new to us because, in spite of this, we are finding individuals and not simple ones, but of a more relevant category due to the number of objects placed with them as an offering. We may be walking over more remains, “Cave stated.

“We have found several individuals in the western part (of the site) since 2020, and we expect to continue to do so across the eastern sector in the coming seasons. That’s why we suggest that all this raised area could be a pre-Hispanic cemetery, “she added.

Has a Race of Giants Ever Lived in America?

Has a Race of Giants Ever Lived in America?

Over the millennia, people in many places across the globe have reported the existence of giants. Some of these alleged giants were supposedly six or seven feet tall, while others were considerably taller – 10 feet or more. However, many of these accounts are considered mythical or legendary. But even if such giants existed, were they simply the result of disease or genetic abnormalities? And were there just a few of them?

The Cardiff Giant

But these sightings have continued into the modern era. Many people in America, for instance, have reported seeing giants – or at least the bones of giants. Given these accounts, one may think there were many thousands, if not millions, of these giants roaming ancient America – a race of giants, in fact. However, most of the evidence is anecdotal rather than scientific. Mistakes could have been made too, especially by people who know little or nothing about science, particularly archaeology or anthropology. Also, there have been plenty of hoaxes through the ages. Some people love to fool others.

So, have giants ever existed in America? Let’s see if we can answer that question. First, this article will provide a recap of the existence of giants through the ages and then finish the investigation with more recent information.

David and Goliath
King Arthur squares off against a giant

Giants in Mythology and Legend

Over the centuries, the existence of giants has been reported in many parts of the world. The word giant comes from the Greek word Gigantes, and of course, in the old days, the Greeks wrote about the existence of giants in much of Greek mythology. For instance, the Olympian gods fought a war with the Gigantomachy, and they weren’t victorious until Heracles decided to join the Olympians. According to Hindu mythology, the Daityas were a race of giants who fought against the Devas, because they were jealous of their Deva half-brothers. Power-hungry people, the Daityas often allied themselves with other races. Supposedly, female Daityas wore jewels as large as boulders.

The Old Testament of the Bible includes tales of giants too. The Book of Genesis mentions the Nephilim, who existed before and after the biblical deluge. And David battled the Philistine giant Goliath, who reportedly was about ten feet tall. Goliath’s brothers were also considered giants.

European Giants

In Norse mythology, most of their various monsters were giants. In the eventual battle of Ragnarök, a kind of end-of-the-world tale, the giants will lay siege to Asgard, which will bring about the destruction of the world. Moreover, the Norse gods are related to giants. The chief god Odin was the great-grandson of the first giant, Ymir.

In medieval folklore, people believed giants were responsible for many ancient civilizations. Their reasoning was that only giants could have built the immense walls, fortifications, temples and statues now attributed to the Greeks, Romans, Celts or Druids. Giants are also mentioned frequently in fairy tales, particularly Jack the Giant Killer, Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon and Young Ronald. In 1890, bone fragments discovered by an anthropologist in France, and dating from the Neolithic period to the Bronze Age, came to be known as the Giant of Castelnau. Judging from the size of these leg and arm bones, it’s been estimated this “giant” was anywhere from 10 to 15 feet tall!

Paul Bunyan
Skulls found at Lovelock Cave
Artist’s depiction of Cahokia
Monk’s Mound
Creek Mound
Miamisburg Mound

The Case for Giants in America

Most Americans have heard of Paul Bunyan, who, according to American folklore, was a giant lumberjack who was so big and strong he could bat cannonballs with his huge hands. In more recent times, Paul Bunyan has become a cartoon character of note. And then there’s Bigfoot, aka Sasquatch, a hominid-like, ape-man that purportedly lurks in the woods of North America.

But these giants are just silliness, right?

Well, many authors have written about the possible existence of giants in America. Certainly, one of the better books in this genre was penned by Richard J. Dewhurst, who wrote The Ancient Giants Who Ruled America, published in 2014. The following text will pertain to the discoveries Dewhurst writes about in this very interesting book.

Red-Haired Giants Found in Nevada

According to Paiute oral history, red-haired giants known as the Si-Te-Cah (the “tule eaters”) cannibalized people in what is now central Nevada. Eventually, the Paiute tribes rebelled against these giants and eradicated them. Then, in 1911, a group of bat guano miners discovered the remains and artefacts of some of these giants in Lovelock Cave. Certainly, the greatest of these discoveries were some mummies of the Si-Te-Cah, which had been wrapped in elaborate textiles. During subsequent excavations by scientists in Lovelock Cave, numerous artefacts and some human remains were collected, but experts dispute the claim that giants once lived in the cave. Interestingly, archaeological samples taken from some duck decoys found in the cave showed that using a dating technique known as Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, the decoys were from 2,000 to 2,500 years old.

Unfortunately, the mummies of the Si-Te-Cah have been lost; only the skulls of these alleged giants have been kept at the Humboldt Museum in Winnemucca, Nevada.

Mound Builders of America

Throughout Dewhurst’s book, he writes about the discovery of giants interred in burial mounds in parts of the United States. These accounts, dozens of them, in fact, cover a time period from the late 1700s until well into the twentieth century. According to Dewhurst, thousands of these burial mounds were discovered over this time period and many still exist, particularly the larger ones. But the remains of the supposed giants discovered in the burial mounds disintegrated shortly after discovery, were lost, or stored away – without scientific investigation – and then forgotten. A typical account from the book goes like this:


Ohio Science Annual, 1898

A rare archaeological discovery has been made near Reinersville in Morgan County, Ohio. A small knoll, which had always been supposed to be the result of an uprooted tree, was opened recently and discovered to be the work of the mound builders. Just below the surrounding surface, a layer of boulders and pebbles was found. Directly underneath this was found the skeleton of a giant 8 feet, 7 inches in height. Surrounding the skeleton were bones and stone implements, stone hatchets, and other characteristics of the mound builders. The discovery is considered by the scientists as one of the most important ever made in Ohio. The skeleton is now in the possession of a Reinersville collector.

Cahokia, One of America’s Greatest Mound Builder Sites

The Cahokia mound builder site is one of the largest in North America. Located in southwestern Illinois, near Collinsville (across the Mississippi River from St. Louis), the site is near the confluence of three rivers, so the ancient people of the area must have loved this place. About a thousand years ago, Cahokia was a city larger than London, and there were 120 earthen mounds, though only 40 remain today. But the largest still exists, and it’s called Monks Mound, which is comparable in height and surface area to the largest pyramids built by the Egyptians, Maya, Aztecs and Toltecs.

Interestingly, also located near the Cahokia site, is what’s called Woodhenge, a structure that includes 48 wooden posts arranged in a 410-foot diameter circle. Woodhenge has many geological and celestial alignments. At the Cahokia site, built by the Mississippian culture, hundreds of human skeletons have been found, including the bones of many sacrificial victims and, of course, the remains of giants.

Blond-haired Giants of Santa Catalina Island

During the 1920s on Santa Catalina Island, which is off the coast of Southern California (considered one of the Channel Islands), scientists dug up the skeletal remains of more than 3,700 people. Alleged to be from a race of blond-haired giants, one of the skeletons was over nine feet in length, though the average length of the skeletons was about seven feet. In those days, this discovery generated lots of excitement. The ruins of a temple were also found at the Catalina Island site, where the remains of many sacrificial victims were unearthed. Investigated by the Spanish as long ago as the middle 1500s, the people of this civilization worshipped the Sun God. Subsequent radiocarbon dating indicated that at least some of the skeletal remains found on the island were as old as 7,000 years.

Dewhurst claims that most of these skeletons were taken by the University of California and the Smithsonian Institute, though the Smithsonian denied it had the remains for 50 years. However, in 2011, the Smithsonian admitted they had the skeletons in a restricted-access room. Be that as it may, 200 skeletons from the site can be found at UCLA’s Fowler Museum.

Evidence for a Smithsonian Cover-up?

Throughout the book, Dewhurst asserts that the Smithsonian Institute has engaged in a cover-up regarding the existence of a race of giants in America, but he provides no proof in his aforementioned book and, of course, the Smithsonian hasn’t admitted there ever was – or is – such a cover-up. According to the online article, “Big Buried Secrets: Giant Skeletons and the Smithsonian” written by Micah Hanks, if the Smithsonian can be blamed for anything regarding the lost bones of giants, it’s that the Institute’s recordkeeping is not perfect. A quote from the article could summarize this issue:

Of course, the knowledge that such skeletons may indeed have been found at times, paired with the Smithsonian’s apparent inability to keep very good records about their discovery, no doubt helps to fuel the conspiratorial speculation. With all the unknown quantities present here (and whether they are largely fact, or merely fiction), at times it does become difficult to know whether the entire truth is really being told.

Was a Cover-up Ever Needed?

Adrienne Mayor, in her book, Fossil Legends of the First Americans, published in 2007, writes that the existence of giants in America is little more than the subject of persistent rumours. She claims that the presence of bones of large extinct mammals such as mammoths, mastodons, cave bears, sabre-toothed cats and other Ice Age megafauna could have been mistaken as human bones. Moreover, she writes that hair pigment is not stable after death and that atmospheric conditions and different soil types can turn dark hair rusty red or orange.

Robert Wadlow and his father


There’s no incontrovertible evidence that any man or woman has ever been taller than eight feet 11 inches – the height of the world’s tallest human, Robert Wadlow. Other men and women have reached heights of above eight feet. Most, if not all of these people suffered from gigantism or acromegaly, that is, abnormal medical conditions. Moreover, some people, having no recognizable medical abnormality, have become taller than seven feet. (Many of these people play on basketball teams, in fact). Acromegaly affects about 60 out of every one million people, so over the ages there may have been thousands of so-called giants.

This begs the question: How tall is a giant? Is it anybody who suffers from gigantism – or anybody who’s taller than seven or eight feet? Who’s the authority to answer such a query?

Would he or she please step forward!

Anyway, in times past, there may have been quite a few giants, but what evidence is there that an entire race of giants – red-haired, blond-haired or otherwise – existed at some time and place on earth? Perhaps the Smithsonian Institute really has such evidence, but the organization insists that it does not. Without the bones of many such giants, people must assume that a race of giants has never existed on earth. But, in the coming months or years, that conclusion could change – by the author and many other people – so keep your mind open to all possibilities.

Workers digging gas pipes in Peru find the 2,000-year-old gravesite

Workers digging gas pipes in Peru find the 2,000-year-old gravesite

The AFP reports that workers laying a new gas pipe in the La Victoria district of the city of Lima discovered a 2,000-year-old grave containing some 40 ceramic vessels.

Workers digging gas pipes in Peru find the 2,000-year-old gravesite
A work crew laying a natural gas pipe under a street in Lima, Peru stumbled across a 2,000-year-old burial site, including the remains of six people and ceramic vessels.

Workers laying gas pipes on a street in the Peruvian capital Lima stumbled on the remains of a pre-Hispanic gravesite that included 2,000-year-old ceramic burial vessels, an archaeologist said Thursday.

“This find that we see today is 2,000 years old,” archaeologist Cecilia Camargo told AFP at the site.

“So far, there are six human bodies that we have recovered, including children and adults, accompanied by a set of ceramic vessels that were expressly made to bury them.”

Experts believe the site in the Lima district of La Victoria may be linked to the culture known as “Blanco sobre Rojo,” or “White on Red,” which settled on the central coast of Peru in the valleys of Chillon, Rimac and Lurin, the three rivers that cross Lima.

“So far, we have recovered about 40 vessels of different shapes related to the White on Red style,” said Camargo, head of the cultural heritage department at the natural gas company Calidda.

“Some bottles are very distinctive of this period and style, which have a double spout and a bridge handle,” Camargo said.

As finds of ancient artefacts and remains occur frequently in Peru, all public service companies that do excavations have in house archaeologists, including Calidda, a Colombian-funded company that distributes natural gas in Lima and in the neighboring port of Callao.

Specialists work around the ancient burial site found by a crew laying a natural gas pipe under a street in Lima, Peru on November 04, 2021.

New Horrifying Secrets of Peru’s Ancient Civilizations Unearthed in The Andes

New Horrifying Secrets of Peru’s Ancient Civilizations Unearthed in The Andes

The foothills of the Andes mountains are revealing their bloody secrets: the ancient skeletons of sacrificed children. Archaeologists have unearthed 29 human bodies entombed approximately 1,000 years ago at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá, an archaeological site in the Lambayeque region of northwestern Peru.

New Horrifying Secrets of Peru's Ancient Civilizations Unearthed in The Andes
An overhead view of the excavation site.

Four of the skeletons – belonging to two children, a teenager and one adult – date to the Wari culture.

These four skeletons represent the region’s first known examples of human offerings from the Wari civilization, Edgar Bracamonte Lévano, the excavation’s director and research archaeologist with the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum, told Live Science in an email.

In addition to human remains, the excavation uncovered skeletons from eight guinea pigs, as well as several alpacas and llamas, all of which were likely sacrificed. They also uncovered pots, bottles, and a knife with a half-moon-shaped blade.

Bracamonte Lévano recognized the tombs as Wari because they were surrounded by three distinctive, D-shaped enclosures typical of the culture’s religious spaces.

The human offerings may have been “part of a possible ritual carried out at the time of starting the construction of these Wari-style religious spaces,” he said.

In addition to the four human offerings, the archaeological team uncovered a fifth individual who had undergone secondary burial. “That is to say, he was buried elsewhere and [then] reburied inside the D-shaped enclosure,” Bracamonte Lévano said.

A human skeleton unearthed at Huaca Santa Rosa de Pucalá

The Wari civilization flourished along the mountains and coasts of modern-day Peru from around AD 500 to 1000.

Wari people were known for their finely woven textiles and sculpted pottery, as well as their roads and terraced agriculture, according to the World History Encyclopedia. These roads would later be incorporated into parts of the Inca Empire.

While the exact structure of Wari society remains open to debate, archaeologists have found evidence suggesting that religion was deeply intertwined with politics and that women were included at the highest levels of governance, as Live Science previously reported.

The other 25 skeletons found buried – though not sacrificed – at the site belonged to the Mochica, or Moche, culture. This civilization thrived in what is now Lambayeque from around AD 100 to 700, and would later be supplanted by the Wari.


Unlike Wari art, which tends toward abstract shapes and patterns, Moche art is famous for its more literal, naturalistic style. That makes artefacts from the two cultures easily distinguishable, Bracamonte Lévano said. 

Among the most significant Moche discoveries in recent years is the Lady of Cao mummy, a tattooed noblewoman whose forensic reconstruction was the subject of a 2017 National Geographic documentary.

The Lord of Sipán, another famous Moche mummy discovered in 1987, resides in the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum under Bracamonte Lévano’s watchful eye. 

193-million-year-old nesting ground with more than 100 dinosaur eggs offers evidence that they lived in herds

193-million-year-old nesting ground with more than 100 dinosaur eggs offers evidence that they lived in herds

A 193-million-year-old nesting ground containing more than 100 dinosaurs eggs is upending paleontologists’ understanding of an early dinosaur species. Research published Thursday describes a collection of eggs and juvenile and adult skeletons from a dinosaur called Mussaurus patagonicus, which were found in Patagonia, Argentina.

An artist’s reconstruction of a Mussaurus patagonicus nest.

The dino is an ancestor of long-necked herbivores called sauropods, such as Brachiosaurus. Most of the chicken-sized eggs were discovered in clusters of eight to 30, suggesting they resided in nests as part of a common breeding ground.

Scientists also found Mussaurus skeletons of similar sizes and ages buried together. Combined, these patterns offer evidence that the dinosaurs lived in herds.

“I went to this site aiming to find at least one nice dinosaur skeleton. We ended up with 80 skeletons and more than 100 eggs (some with embryos preserved inside!)” Diego Pol, a researcher with the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Patagonia and the lead author of the new study, told Insider via email.

He called the site “one of a kind.”

Before this discovery, researchers thought herding behavior was restricted to dinosaurs that came much later, in the very late Jurassic and early Cretaceous periods. That’s because the earliest fossil evidence of sauropod herds only dates back 150 million years. This nesting ground, however, pushes that timeline back more than 40 million years. It’s the earliest known evidence of social groups among dinosaurs, the study authors said.

X-rays offer a peek into fossilized dinosaur eggs

193-million-year-old nesting ground with more than 100 dinosaur eggs offers evidence that they lived in herds
A fossilized Mussaurus egg that’s more than 190 million years old, found in southern Patagonia, Argentina.

Argentine paleontologists discovered the first Mussaurus skeletons at this Patagonian site in the late 1970s. The dinosaurs they found were no more than 6 inches long. Unaware that they’d uncovered newborns, the researchers named the creature “mouse lizard” because of the skeletons’ tiny size.

Pol decided to reexplore the area starting in 2002, and by 2013, he’d helped find the first adult Mussaurus fossils there. Those bones revealed that full-grown versions of these “mouse lizards” were closer in size to modern-day hippos. They grew to weigh about 1.5 tons, reaching lengths of 26 feet from nose to tail tip. But infants could fit in the palm of a human hand.

A screen shot from a video showing how scientists like Diego Pol used high-energy X-rays to peek inside a Mussaurus egg without destroying it.

Since then, Pol’s team has also uncovered and studied the contents of the nesting ground, which measures just under half a square mile. In 2017, he took 30 of the eggs to a lab in France, and his group then used X-ray technology to peek inside and confirm the species of the embryos without breaking the shells.

By analyzing the sizes and types of bones in the nesting ground, the researchers determined that the animals were buried near counterparts of a similar age. Some clusters had juveniles less than a year old, others consisted of individuals that were slightly older but not yet fully grown, and finally, there were smatterings of adults that had died solo or in pairs.

That type of age segregation, the researchers said, is a key sign of herds: Juveniles hung out with others their age while adults looked for food and protected the community.

“They were resting together and likely died during a drought,” Pol said. “This is compatible with a herd that stays together during many years and within which the animals get close to each other to rest, or to forage, or do other daily activities.”

Another strong indication of herd behavior is a nesting ground itself: If Mussaurus lived as a community, it would make sense that they’d lay eggs in a common area.

Living in herds may have helped Mussaurus survive

Nest with Mussaurus eggs dated to more than 190 million years ago, found in Patagonia. Diego Pol

To figure out the fossils’ ages, researchers examined minerals in volcanic ash that was scattered around the eggs and skeletons, and determined that the fossils were about 193 million years old.

Previously, scientists thought this type of dinosaur lived during the late Triassic period, about 221 million to 205 million years ago. But the new date suggests instead that Mussaurus thrived during the early Jurassic period. That, in turn, is evidence that Mussaurus’ ancestors survived a mass extinction event 200 million years ago.

The key to that survival, the study suggests, may have been their herding behavior.


“These were social animals and we think this may be an important factor to explain their success,” Pol said.

An artist’s depiction of the nesting ground of a Mussaurus herd of in what is now Argentina.

Communal living likely helped Mussaurus find enough food, perhaps by making it easier for them to forage over larger areas. Mussaurus of the same size would likely “group together to coordinate their activities,” Pol said, given that larger adults and tinier juveniles moved at different speeds.

He added that given the size difference between newborns and adults, it probably took these dinosaurs many years to reach full size. So young Mussaurus might have been vulnerable to predation.

By staying in herds, adults could better protect their young.

Red paint on the 1,000-year-old gold mask from Peru contains human blood proteins

Red paint on 1,000-year-old gold mask from Peru contains human blood proteins

Thirty years ago, archaeologists excavated the tomb of an elite 40–50-year-old man from the Sicán culture of Peru, a society that predated the Incas. The man’s seated, the upside-down skeleton was painted bright red, as was the gold mask covering his detached skull.

Now, researchers reporting in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research have analyzed the paint, finding that, in addition to a red pigment, it contains human blood and bird egg proteins.

The Sicán was a prominent culture that existed from the ninth to 14th centuries along the northern coast of modern Peru.

During the Middle Sicán Period (about 900–1,100 A.D.), metallurgists produced a dazzling array of gold objects, many of which were buried in tombs of the elite class. In the early 1990s, a team of archaeologists and conservators led by Izumi Shimada excavated a tomb where an elite man’s seated skeleton was painted red and placed upside down at the centre of the chamber.

The skeletons of two young women were arranged nearby in birthing and modifying poses, and two crouching children’s skeletons were placed at a higher level.

Among the many gold artefacts found in the tomb was a red-painted gold mask, which covered the face of the man’s detached skull. At the time, scientists identified the red pigment in the paint as cinnabar, but Luciana de Costa Carvalho, James McCullagh and colleagues wondered what the Sicán people had used in the paint mix as a binding material, which had kept the paint layer attached to the metal surface of the mask for 1,000 years.

To find out, the researchers analyzed a small sample of the mask’s red paint. Fourier transform-infrared spectroscopy revealed that the sample contained proteins, so the team conducted a proteomic analysis using tandem mass spectrometry.

Red paint on 1,000-year-old gold mask from Peru contains human blood proteins
A red paint sample taken from a 1,000-year-old mask excavated from a Sicán tomb in Peru contains human blood and bird egg proteins, in addition to a red pigment.

They identified six proteins from human blood in the red paint, including serum albumin and immunoglobulin G (a type of human serum antibody). Other proteins, such as ovalbumin, came from egg whites. Because the proteins were highly degraded, the researchers couldn’t identify the exact species of bird’s egg used to make the paint, but a likely candidate is the Muscovy duck.

The identification of human blood proteins supports the hypothesis that the arrangement of the skeletons was related to a desired “rebirth” of the deceased Sicán leader, with the blood-containing paint that coated the man’s skeleton and face mask potentially symbolizing his “life force,” the researchers say.

The authors do not acknowledge any funding sources.

The abstract that accompanies this article is available here.

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