Archaeologists in Bolivia announced they unearthed a tombed cemetery containing over 100 human remains dating back more than 500 years from the Indigenous Pacajes Aymara society that once inhabited the region about 30 km southwest of Bolivia's capital, La Paz in Mazo Cruz.
Bolivia's Ministry of Cultures and Tourism authorized the excavation more than three months ago after a mining project in the area began to uncover the patrimonial finds.
"Inside the cemetery, we found two tombs, one of which alone contained about 108 individuals,” said archaeologist Wanderson Esquerdo who is working on the project. He added that they were badly deteriorated, but that he and the other scientists we were able to “recover objects the individuals were buried in."
To reach the four tombs, scientists had to lower themselves through a circular chimney that measures just 70cm in diameter and three meters deep.
In addition to human mummies, the largest of the tombs contained metal, ceramic and wooden artifacts, adding to the country's cultural patrimony archives.
#Impresionante Descubren una necrópolis post-Tiwanaku con más de un centenar de fardos funerarios. Se detectaron cuatro tumbas colectivas, las dos primeras saqueadas y las dos últimas intactas que poseen un pozo de ingreso que dirige bajo tierra a dos cámaras.#ConoceBolivia pic.twitter.com/I6AJsXT63T— Turismo Bolivia (@ViceminTurismo) 9 de noviembre de 2018
Archaeologist Jedu Sagarnaga told Reuters about the partly pre-Incan tombs: "An incredibly important fact is that we found headbands in horseshoe form that probably refer to groups from the north of the area that in the time of the Inca, were called Chinchaysuy, who were subdued by the Incas at some point. At another point, they were allies or even envoys of the Incas sent to administer other places like the Bolivian highlands."
Esquerdo added: "There are objects that are clearly attributed to the Inca culture, and others that are not Inca, but rather Aymara."
The Indigenous Pacajes of the Aymara kingdom, which flourished from Bolivia to Peru and parts of Argentina and Chile, thrived until being taken over by the Incan empire in the mid-15th century, according to archaeologists. They theorized the Pacajes may not have been wiped out by the Incan conquest but could have fallen victim to some type of epidemic.
The discovery is "unique and unprecedented," said Wilma Alanoca, Bolivia's Minister of Culture and Tourism.
Archaeologists, who began the dig last June, said microorganisms wreaked havoc on the bodies' soft tissue, quickly decomposing the remains. Excessive humidity and high salinity inside the chamber also deteriorated many of the buried objects, according to the excavation team.