|A burial of a young woman found in the middle of a tomb. Analysis of her skeletal remains reveal that she suffered dental problems, including tooth loss. At one point in her life she suffered an internal hemorrhage in the meninges of her cranium.|
Before rigor mortis set in, the mummies had their knees put up to the level of their shoulders and their arms folded along their chest, the researchers found. The corpses were then bound with rope and wrapped in layers of textiles. The mummies range in age from neonate fetuses to older adults, with some of the youngest mummies (such as infants) being buried in jars. While alive the people appear to have lived in villages close to Tenahaha.
Bits and pieces of mummies
The mummified remains were in poor shape due to damage from water and rodents. Additionally, the researchers found some of the mummies were intentionally broken apart, their bones scattered and moved between the tombs. In one tomb the scientists found almost 400 isolated human remains, including teeth, hands and feet.
“Though many individuals were broken apart, others were left intact,” Jennings wrote in the book. “People were moved around the tombs, but they sometimes remained bunched together, and even earth or rocks were used to separate some groups and individuals.” Some grave goods were smashed apart, while others were left intact, he said.
Understanding the selective destruction of the mummies and artifacts is a challenge. “In the Andes, death is a process, it’s not as if you bury someone and you’re done,” Jennings told Live Science in an interview.
For instance, the breakup and movement of the mummies may have helped affirm a sense of equality and community. “The breakup of the body, so anathema to many later groups in the Andes, would have been a powerful symbol of communitas (a community of equals),” wrote Jennings in the book. However, while this idea helps explain why some mummies were broken up, it doesn’t explain why other mummies were left intact, Jennings added.
A changing land
Radiocarbon dates and pottery analysis indicate the site was in use between about A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000, with the Inca rebuilding part of the site at a later date.
Research also shows that between A.D. 800 and A.D. 1000 Peru was undergoing tumultuous change, with populations increasing, agriculture expanding and class differences growing, Jennings said. At sites on the coast of Peru,archaeologists have found evidence for violence, with many people suffering cranial trauma (blows to the head), Jennings said. In some areas of Peru, scientists have found pottery containing drawings of fanged teeth and human trophy skulls (skulls that could have been taken in battle) the researchers note.