National Geographic Online
Thousands of mummies rescued from beneath Peruvian shantytown
Willy with mummy
Archaeologist Guillermo Cock examines an Inca mummy

Photograph by John Livzey

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Archaeologists discuss discovery

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Thousands of mummies, most from the Inca culture some 500 years ago, have been found in an ancient cemetery under a busy shantytown on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.

Remains of more than 2,200 individuals have been recovered at the site. It is believed to be the largest cemetery ever excavated in Peru from one time period, around 1480 to 1535. Archaeologists think the sprawling, 20-acre (8-hectare) site was a central cemetery for the Inca people, a place where as many as 10,000 came to their final rest.

Many of the burials are “mummy bundles,” some weighing hundreds of pounds and enfolding as many as seven individuals, along with their possessions. Some of the mummies, apparently elite members of Inca society, still wear the headdress feathers that marked their rank; delicate spondylus shells from Ecuador decorate some graves. Some 50,000 to 60,000 artifacts have been retrieved.

The discovery team, mostly Peruvians, was led by archaeologist Guillermo (Willy) Cock, 48, of Lima. The National Geographic Society, which funded emergency excavation of the site, announced the discovery April 17.

Read the full press release.

Related links:
Inca Mummies: Secrets of a Lost World
Johan Reinhard (Explorer-in-Residence)
Committee for Research and Exploration