A mummy of mystery has come to light in Peru.But where?? Where were the excavations? "400 miles northwest of Lima" is not a location.
She was a woman who died some 1,600 years ago in the heyday of the Moche culture, well before the rise of the Incas. Her imposing tomb suggests someone of high status. Her desiccated remains are covered with red pigment and bear tattoos of patterns and mythological figures.
But the most striking aspect of the discovery, archaeologists said yesterday, is not the offerings of gold and semiprecious stones, or the elaborate wrapping of her body in fine textiles, but the other grave goods.
She was surrounded by weaving materials and needles, befitting a woman, and 2 ceremonial war clubs and 28 spear throwers - sticks that propel spears with far greater force - items never found before in the burial of a woman of the Moche (pronounced MOH-chay).
Was she a warrior princess, or perhaps a ruler? Possibly.
"She is elite, but somewhat of an enigma," said John Verano, a physical anthropologist at Tulane University, who worked with the Peruvian archaeologists who made the discovery last year.
Christopher B. Donnan of the University of California, Los Angeles, was not a member of the research team but inspected the mummy and the tomb soon after the find.
"It's among the richest female Moche burials ever found," said Dr. Donnan, an archaeologist of Peruvian culture. "The tomb combines things usually found either exclusively in male or female burials - a real mystery."
The National Geographic Society announced the discovery and is publishing details in its magazine's June issue. The excavations, more than 400 miles northwest of Lima, were supported by the Augusto N. Wiese Foundation of Peru.
Two more Peru notes.
Several people have asked me about things we didn't do in Peru. Trujillo, for example, is a centre of certain traditional (Spanish-derived) dancing, as well as famous pacing horses. There are colonial mansions in Lima and Arequipa, and many private art collections. On the less sedentary side of life, Peru is a magnet for trekking, surfing, sandboarding, and whitewater rafting.
You'd need a lot more time to do and see everything in Peru, as you would in any country. But even if we had been traveling for more than three weeks, we wouldn't have done these things. We would have covered more ground - maybe gone to Bolivia, or explored islands on Lake Titicaca. Our trip was formed around our own interests. My travel journal is a reflection of that, not a definitive guidebook.
Also, in your internet travels, if you come across stories on the upcoming election in Peru, or about the current political situation in South America in general, I'd be very interested. Feel free to links them by email or to post them in comments.