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Archaeologists find buried mummy surrounded by coca leaves next to soccer field in Peru’s capital

Archaeologists in Peru’s capital have discovered an ancient mummy from the pre-Hispanic era, which was located atop a hill near a professional soccer club’s practice field.

The skeleton, observed by a team from The Associated Press, was positioned with long black hair lying face up with its lower limbs bound by a rope made of plant-based vines. Surrounding the mummy were stones, and it was buried approximately one meter (three feet) below the surface.

According to Miguel Aguilar, an archaeology professor at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, the burial ceremony involved the use of coca leaves and seashells.

The mummy was interred above a destroyed clay temple shaped like a “U,” a characteristic commonly found in pre-Hispanic structures.

Aguilar mentioned that the mummy’s age has yet to be determined through radiocarbon dating. Additionally, the presence of old fly eggs near the male skeleton suggests that the body may have been exposed for several days before being covered with soil.

The discovery was made in Rímac, a district separated from Lima’s oldest part by a river bearing the same name. Aguilar is also the director of the Historical and Cultural Center of the Municipality of Rímac.

Pieter Van Dalen, an expert on the archaeology of the Peruvian coast and a professor at Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, who was not directly involved in the project, explained that the use of vegetable ropes to bind the lower limbs of the mummy is a typical practice seen in ceremonies.

He referred to another mummy discovered in a different area of Lima where the body was also tied with similar vegetable ropes. In the initial months of this year, the excavation team collected approximately eight tons of garbage that covered the hill’s summit, which is located adjacent to the training field and headquarters of the Sporting Cristal soccer club.

Homeless individuals and drug addicts who often camped around the hill were removed by the police. The hill, which contains remnants of ancient mud walls, is referred to as a “huaca” in Quechua, signifying an oracle or sacred place.

Lima is home to more than 400 huacas, according to the Ministry of Culture. Unusual discoveries of mummies and other pre-Hispanic artifacts have been made throughout the city.

Construction workers installing natural gas lines or water mains have come across mummies, including those of children, inside large clay vessels. There have even been instances where residents themselves, like Hipólito Tica, stumbled upon three pre-Hispanic mummies in a hole in their patio.

Tica kept the discovery a secret for twenty-five years until 2022 when archaeologists, with permission from Peru’s Ministry of Culture, removed them.