An exquisitely preserved and elaborately tattooed
mummy of a young woman has been discovered deep inside a mud-brick pyramid
in northern Peru, archaeologists from Peru and the U.S. announced today.
The 1,500-year-old mummy may shed new light on the mysterious Moche culture,
which occupied Peru’s northern coastal valleys from about A.D. 100 to 800.
In addition to the heavily tattooed body, the tomb yielded a rich array
of funeral objects, from gold sewing needles and weaving tools to masterfully
worked metal jewelry. Peruvian archaeologists, under the direction of lead
scientist R?gulo Franco, made the discovery last year at an ancient ceremonial
site known as El Brujo.
The tomb lay near the top of a crumbling pyramid called Huaca Cao Viejo,
a ruin near the town of Trujillo (see Peru map) that has been well known
since colonial times.
from National Geographic
El Brujo, of course, means The Wizard, The Witchdoctor,
The Shaman. We suspect the
tattooed chick has a back story that would make today’s most demented
Goth seem like a Princess in a Fairy Tale by comparison. See related
speculation in the New
The Moche, who ruled what today is the north coast of
Peru when the Roman Empire ruled the Ancient World, were without a doubt
the most blood-thirsty and ghoulish of the many sacrificial cults in
pre-Hispanic America. They sacrificed thousands of assorted victims every
year for hundreds of years. They especially liked to sacrifice children
They worshiped a sanguinary deity called The Decapitator,
usually depicted as a giant spider with one arm holding a knife at the
neck of its next victim and another holding the head by its hair. The
sacrifices, often dozens or hundreds at a time, featured not only, like
the Aztecs, removal of the still-beating heart using a special sacrificial
but also complete excarnation and
ritual consumption of human blood.
They couldn’t build a house or even an outhouse
without sacrificing several teenaged virgins and planting them at the
a sort of macabre feng shui. Much anthropological attention has been paid
to the source of so many human sacrifices, with no consensus conclusion.
Moche is a dark and haunted town to this day. It features worn,
slump-shouldered pyramids of weathered adobe brick, rising like brown
bales of sun-baked straw in the middle of irrigated fields of corn and
sugar cane, desultory agricultural workers and poverty-stricken peasants shuffling listlessly through said fields, and an occasional backpacking tourist. The tourists usually look around the corn fields and failing to locate a museum, gift shop, bathrooms or even a soda stand, usually leave without even seeing the pyramids up close.
We know whereof we speak, as we lived over 10 years
in the nearby Peruvian city
of Trujillo. In fact, perhaps not coincidentally, the Dowbrigade
was married (wife #1) in Moche, to a Peruvian Princess, daughter of a
local judge with shady connections in Moche which allowed us to avoid
legal prerequisites to matrimony required in more organized and supervised
The Moche marriage turned out to be almost as bloody
as the empire that preceded it, and these days our now ex-wife is looking
like the tattooed sweetheart above. But let’s not get nasty, or mean-spirited,
this late in the game. We’re bigger than that.