Earliest Gun Shot Victim in the New World

June 22nd, 2007

Puruchuco, the site in Ate I visited not so long ago, has turned up yet more spectacular finds. In the Inca cemetery not far from the ruins in which 2500 mummies have been excavated, archaeologists uncovered what appeared to be a skeleton with a Spanish musket ball hole in the back of its skull. The traces of iron in the skull, from which Spanish muskets balls were made, seems to confirm this.

Dating of artefacts buried alongside the bodies allowed them to date the burials to an extraordinary time – about one year after the Spanish had founded the city of Lima.

The Spanish had taken Cusco in 1532 and founded Lima in 1535. They had installed a puppet emperor while they went pillaging and massacring in the north of the country. This puppet emperor was Manco Inca Yupanqui, brother of the executed emperor Atahualpa. He seized an opportunity in 1536 to incite and lead a rebellion. A number of battles took place, mostly around Cusco. One battle however, as Spanish chronicles detail, took place where the outskirts of city now stand which led to the final defeat of the rebelling Incas by the Spanish, who were equipped with some of the first European firearms.

National Geographic, who have been following the work at Puruchuco, announced the discovery by independent Peruvian archaeologists Guillermo Cock and Elena Goycochea of dozens of bodies buried hastily, without religious ceremonies being preformed or tradition being followed. The skeletons showed signs of violent deaths – one with a bullet hole in its skull. Guillermo Cock explains that most bore signs of death by hand-to-hand combat or maybe even trampling by horses – the other new Spanish weapon.

National Geographic will be presenting its documentary on the subject in the US, on PBS I believe, on Tuesday, the preview is included below, and my Puruchuco blog is here.

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