English 21

Mummy’s Tatoos

Deep inside an ancient pyramid in Peru, a mummy lay hidden in a gold-filled tomb. The underground chamber has remained1a secret for nearly 1,600 years, until an archaeologist noticed rectangular patches of soft clay in the pyramid’s floor—a telltale sign of a grave. He suspected, someone powerful2 would be buried here.
 The archaeologist was standing in a sacred location, a courtyard near the peak of the biggest pyramid at El Brujo—a ceremonial site3 of the ancient Moche people. The civilization’s rulers, who lived in Peru from A.D. 100 to 800, probably reserved and set aside4 this spot for a king or a great warrior.

Finally, after weeks of careful digging, the archaeologists became frustrated by their lack of progress5. In front of them lay one of the world’s best-preserved mummies. As they unwrapped the bundled layers, hundreds of treasures were revealed, including gold necklaces, sparkling crowns, and shiny war clubs. [6] When archaeologists lifted a bowl covering the mummy’s face, however, they found their biggest surprise yet7. The mummy wasn’t a king or a warrior; it was a young Moche woman—and she was covered in mysterious tattoos.

Today this mystery woman is making headlines again. Her well-sealed tomb that helped preserve hundreds of ancient artifacts but8 has raised more questions than answers. Researchers are puzzled and unsure of how to proceed9. But what did these elaborate tattoos mean? No one knows for sure what these creatures signify, but the Moche may have believed the animals will bring10 healthy harvests.

Until now research shows11 that only men ruled Moche society, a warrior culture in which prisoners were captured in battle and sacrificed. Where did this woman fit in? Was she a queen? A high priestess? One thing is certain: she would have received star treatment. When she visited her people servants12 would have carried her high above the crowds on a litter, a special platform reserved for only the most elite figures. [13]

One of the most important questions is why this adored woman died at such a young age? The skeleton showed no sign of disease or injury. [14] Whoever she was, it’s clear from her elaborate burial that she was a star among her people. And now her tomb is helping experts re-create her life and the world of the Moche people. [15]