A chamber tomb was unearthed in San José de Moro in Peru, revealing the remains of a woman who had been laid to rest with lavish offerings. She is believed to be a priestess or a queen or both of the pre-Columbian Moche civilization thriving on the northern coast of Peru. The burial featured a richly decorated coffin covered with copper plaques, and inside it a skeleton, buried 1200 years ago, along with precious pottery vessels, a ceremonial knife, and a silver goblet. Peruvian archaeologist Luis Castillo stated that the discovery of the splendid burial shattered archaeologists’ notions about the Moche, which until recently had been perceived as a society ruled by male warriors. The artefacts found in tombs are signs of the power the woman had wielded in life.
This tomb is the 8th found in 25 years by the San José de Moro Archaeological Program carried out by Pontifical Catholic University of Peru and headed by Castillo. All the tombs contained female burials of women wearing rich headdresses and beaded necklaces, and surrounded by sacrifice victims and exquisite relics including silver goblets. It is believed that the women were priestesses because of their resemblance to figures depicted in rituals scenes found on Moche art. The Moche had no written language but left thousands of ceramic vessels with intricate drawings portraying their daily lives and their cosmological beliefs. In those depicting human sacrifice, a priestess wears a headdress and holds a silver goblet filled with victims’ blood.