Intact Wari tomb at the Huaca Pucllana

August 26th, 2008

Built by the Lima Culture, the Huaca Pucllana eventually came under the control of the vast Huari (or Wari) Empire. Although various Wari artefacts have been discovered here, this is the first Wari-period tomb to be uncovered.

It has been almost three years since archaeologists working at the Huaca Pucllana in Lima’s Miraflores district came across this 1,300 year old tomb – the first of its kind from the Wari-era that has been found in the pyramid structure built by the Lima Culture.

The excavation process has just concluded and the team lead by Isabel Flores are excited about showing off the results of their hard work. Almost certainly the most interesting items uncovered are six unkus, prehispanic tunics, of exceptional quality and made from cotton and alpaca. T

Alongside this Lord of the Unkus were two other adults and a child who had been sacrificed. Joining these people were textiles, ceramics and bales that protected masks. One of these masks, in a pristine state of preservation, seems to belong to one of the adults, a female, who has been named the Lady of the Mask. This adult brought with her to her grave a collection of instruments for producing textiles, as was the job of women in Wari times.

Burial practices

Wari unku

The Wari buried their dead wrapped in ropes of vegetable fibre that were stuffed with leaves to protect the body. Often you would also find funerary masks. This is quite different from how the Lima Culture buried their dead – they placed the bodies, rather than in a curled up position, laying horizontally on read mats. Another obvious difference between the two is that the Lima buried their dead in areas of the huaca that they had specifically built for this purpose, while the Huari paid little attention to this.

The Huaca Pucllana and other coastal sites have been so completely looted and destroyed that this discovery came as quite a surprise. For the first time archaeologists have a clear picture of the manner in which the Wari carried out burials and funeral rights on the Peruvian coast, far from their homeland in mountainous Ayacucho. Now the excavation is completed, archaeologists can work on discovering who the buried persons were and what their roles were.

Work on the Huaca Pucllana is being carried out jointly by the INC and the municipality of Miraflores, and although the project sets and excellent example for the rest of the country it is not without its own problems. The municipality has cut funding three times citing budget constraints and the archaeologists complain about not having space to store uncovered items. This discovery of this tomb has added further strain. The project needs to X-ray the three mummies – a cost that was not expected and has prompted Miraflores’s mayor to ask for local clinics to donate their services.

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