Last updated at 13:45 BST, Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Peruvian mummy found

Summary

16 September 2009

A joint Japanese-Peruvian archaeological mission has uncovered the remains of a woman who they believe was killed as a sacrifice, almost 3,000 years ago in Peru.

Reporter:
Dan Collyns

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At close to 3,000 years old, scientists were amazed at how well preserved the remains were. The woman, named the 'Lady of Pacopampa' after the site in the northern highlands where she was found, stood at just over one and a half metres tall.

She was discovered surrounded by gold necklaces, pendants and ceramics. Archaeologists were also surprised to find jewellery made from seashells as the site where she was found in the Andean Cajamarca region is several hundred miles from the coast and there was little previous evidence of trade between the two areas.

Although the circumstances of her death are still unclear, the Japanese researcher leading the dig, Yuji Seki, said her bones were found in the foetal position with the legs bound by a cord. He added that she was between 30 and 40 years old when she died, considerably older than most mummified bodies found in Peru.

Archaeologists believe the Pacopampa area where she was found was an important ceremonial site, contemporary with the better-known Chavin and Cupisnique cultures.

Dan Collyns, BBC News, Lima

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Vocabulary

how well preserved the remains were

how little the dead body had been destroyed or decayed

pendants and ceramics

special necklaces (which have an object hanging from them) and objects jugs, cups, containers, etc.) made from clay that has been heated

archaeologists

people who study buildings, graves, objects etc. of people who lived a long time ago

seashells

empty cases or shells of small sea creatures which are often found lying on beaches

the coast

the land next to the sea

the circumstances of her death

how and why she died

the foetal position

lying curled up (the foetal position describes how an unborn child lies when developing inside its mother while she is pregnant)

bound by a cord

tied with a rope

mummified bodies

dead bodies which have been preserved (to stop them rotting or decaying) by being treated with special oils and other substances and being wrapped in cloth

contemporary

something (here, the Pacopampa area) existed at the same time as something else (here, the Chavin and Cupisnique cultures)