A rare tomb has been discovered tomb in Peru that has yielded gold, silver, and bronze treasures, along with the mummies of three queens, archeologists announced Thursday.
The Wari "temple of the dead" was discovered last September, but scientists kept mum about it for months, fearing the tomb site had been overrun by ancient grave robbers, according to National Geographic.
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Krzysztof Makowski Hanula, an archaeologist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and the project's scientific adviser, said the tomb "is like a pantheon, like a mausoleum of all the Wari nobility in the region."
The Los Angeles Times reported that that the hidden tomb
, found in El Castillo de Huarmey, about 175 miles north of Lima, was filled with 1,200 artifacts, including gold and silver inlaid jewelry, bronze axes and gold tools.
University of Warsaw archaeologist Milosz Giersz, who lead the expedition, told the Times that the Wari predated the Incas in South America. This was the first time experts found a Wari burial site intact, and the discovery sheds new light on the Wari empire.
“We know little about this culture,” Giersz told the Times, “and this discovery is the first one which brings us so much information about the funerary practices of the highest-ranking elite and the role of the woman in pre-Hispanic times.”
The tomb included an altar-like throne and the bodies of 63 people, mostly women. The bodies were discovered in a seated position, wrapped in cloth that is disintegrating. Scientists said they believe some of the women were human sacrifices, while three of them appeared to be Wari queens.
Scientists told the Times that since the Wari had no written history, little is known about them beyond the fact that they dominated the Peru coast from 500 A.D. to 1000 A.D. The Incas did populate the area until the 13th century.
The way the Wari constructed their temples likely played a key role in the downfall of the northern Moche kingdom.
"The Wari phenomenon can be compared to the empire of Alexander the Great," Makowski told National Geographic. "It's a brief historical phenomenon, but with great consequence."
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