It’s the kind of thing archaeologists dream about. A tomb untouched by time or looters, still laden with the gold and silver offerings that accompanied the ancient elite into the afterlife. But when Polish archaeologist Milosz Giersz actually did find an unlooted tomb in Peru, he started having nightmares, according to National Geographic.
Giersz was terrified that looters would make their way to the site, so he and his colleagues excavated the site in complete secrecy for months. They had to dig through 30 tons of rock to get to the 1,200-year-old tomb, where they found and collected more than 1,000 artifacts, including some fantastic gold jewelry. The tomb housed more than 60 bodies, including three queens of the enigmatic Wari civilization.
Think of archaeology and Peru, and you’ll probably call to mind images of Incan sites like Machu Pichu. The Inca were enshrined in history as the civilization encountered and eventually conquered by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro in the 1500s, but they were relative newcomers to power in Peru. They had only held power for a single century before Spain entered the region. The Wari, by contrast, ruled most of what is now Peru for several centuries.
That might not sound like a long time when compared to the Roman Empire, but the Wari civilization had a large impact on the people of the region. Speaking to National Geographic (which helped to fund the excavation), one archaeologist compared the Wari culture to the reign of Alexander the Great. Much of the Wari history remains a mystery. Because so many of their archaeological sites have been looted, archaeologists really don’t know much about them. They hope that this new discovery might answer some of their many remaining questions.
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