Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Fetus Mummies Found Inside 1,200 Year Old Tomb in Peru

A 1,200 year old ancient ritual site unearthed in Cotahuasi Valley in Peru, which is now known as Tenahaha, also reveals several tombs that housed around 40 mummies. Archaeologists have exhumed a total of 171 mummified corpses from these tombs.

These mummies are just a small fraction of thousands waiting to be discovered at the tombs located on small hills near the Tenahaha site, according to Justin Jennings, an archaeologist and curator from the Royal Ontario Museum.

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Researchers found out the mummified corpses stiffened after their deaths while their arms have collapsed. Some mummies had punctures in their chests with their knees held close to their shoulders. The mummies in this body position were tied with ropes and enshrouded with thick layers of fabric.

The mummies aren't just adults but also range from fetuses to infants placed inside jars. According to the researchers' findings, the mummies used to reside in the village near Tenahaha.

The mummies were mostly found to be in poor condition caused by water damage and rodent infestation. Other parts of the corpses were uncovered and found to be intentionally dismembered.

Researchers also discovered there were scattered bones among the ancient tombs. Archaeologists found almost 400 individual fossils of human feet, hands and teeth.

According to Jennings, many mummies were broken apart and others were left alone intact. The people were moved around in these tombs but others remained bunched together in one area. Some others were separated with rocks and earth between groups and individuals.

There were also artifacts found in the tombs that were destroyed and shattered while other goods were left unharmed. Jennings explains this ritual or behavior about death being a process for locals in the Andes. It's not done when you bury someone, he says.

When the remains were relocated and were intentionally broken apart, this act symbolized equality and even a sense of community. Jennings explains this was anathema to later Andean groups and this event became a powerful symbol of communitas or community of equals.

These findings are published in Jennings' new book, Tenahaha and the Wari State: A View of the Middle Horizon from the Cotahuasi Valley.

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