8. Unexpected Mummy
Peru’s 5,000-year-old Caral-Supe (aka Caral) predates the Mayan, Incan, and Aztecan cultures by thousands of years. The 630-hectare, pyramid-boasting sacred site is South America’s oldest center of civilization and marks the start of city living in the region.
Due to a lack of records, we know little of ancient Peruvians, but a recently discovered female mummy suggests a progressive culture that valued women and men as equals. The 4,500-year-old corpse reposed in the ruinsof Aspero, a quaint fishing village 25 kilometers (15 mi) from Caral and under the auspices of its mysterious creators.
The circumstances of the woman’s burial indicate her importance. Likely between the ages of 40 and 50 when she died, archaeologists found her laid to rest in the fetal position and placed atop a variety of charms. These included four figurines (known as tupus) carved in the likenesses of monkeys and birds, a seashell necklace, and a pendant made from a Spondylusmollusk.
The circumstances of the woman’s burial and the recovered items offer evidence that women could attain high status just as men could—a historical rarity and a candid glimpse into the hidden life of the Norte Chico peoples.