A Wari royal tomb has been discovered, the first one ever found which had not already been looted by tomb raiders. This "temple of the dead" was found by archaeologists from Poland and Peru, laying 185 miles north of Lima.
Within the tomb, researchers found jewelry, tools and weapons, along with the human remains from 63 people, many of whom were women. Some of the people buried within the tomb were likely human sacrifices.
"They were people thrown into the grave before the grave was sealed. They were lying on their bellies, in an extended position, and their limbs went in different directions," an archeologist involved in the project said.
Three queens were also found within the catacomb. This came as a bit of a surprise, since female rulers are not often depicted in artwork from the Wari people.
The Wari Empire was the earliest one in South America. The civilization existed between A.D. 700 and 1000. This empire was spread over much of the coastal regions of modern-day Peru. The capital of the civilization, Huari, is estimated to have held a population of 40,000 people, making it one of the great cities of the age. Paris, at that time, had a population of just 25,000 people.
The tomb was found at the Castillo de Huarmey pyramid site. This 110-acre area had long been known to archaeologists and tomb raiders alike, but Milosz Giersz, from the University of Warsaw, hypothesized that a large mausoleum still existed underground, waiting to be found. In 2010, aerial photographs gave hints of where that subterranean tomb might lie, on a ridge between two large adobe-brick pyramids. Tomb raiders had dumped tons of rubble on the area, which the team had to dig through, before reaching the 30 tons of stone fill that was underneath. When they finished digging through that material, however, they discovered a large wooden mace.
"It was a tomb marker. [W]e knew then that we had the main mausoleum," Giersz said.
Excavaton of the site began in September 2012, but the research team under Giersz kept knowledge of the tomb to themselves until now in order to prevent modern-day looters from stealing precious silver and gold artifacts. The trio of queens, for instance, were found with weaving instruments made from gold.
As the researchers excavated the tomb, they were able to recover over 1,000 items from the ancient civilization. These artifacts included bronze axes, silver bowls, ceramic pottery and a drinking cup made of alabaster.
It is believed that the mummified remains of the queens were displayed to the Wari public in much the same way that the remains of Vladimir Lenin has been displayed for the people of Russia since 1924.