Two mummies more than 1,000 years old have been found by archaeologists in a suburb of Lima, Peru.
The mummies – of an adult and a child – were found at an ancient religious complex which has been under excavation since 1981.
The child is believed to have been an offering to the gods and may have been buried alive after the adult’s death.
Researchers also found other offerings including the remains of guinea pigs and jars with feline designs.
“This is one of the most important finds in more than three decades of excavation, because the mummies are intact,” researcher Gladys Paz told the AFP news agency.
Two mummies more than 1,000 years old have been found by archaeologists in a suburb of Lima
The mummies are squatting and are fully dressed wrapped in rope.
It is the third intact find among more than 70 tombs uncovered in the Huaca Pucllana tomb, a pyramid-like temple built by the pre-Columbian Wari culture between 100 and 600 AD in what is now the Miraflores neighborhood.
In 2010, archaeologists found the remains of a woman with four children, and in 2008, the remains of a teenage girl.
The site was built on 2.5 hectares of land and towers over 66ft high. So far, only about 40% has been excavated.
The Wari culture flourished between AD 500 to 1,000 on the coastal area of northern Peru.
Little is known about them, as they did not appear to leave a written record.
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Researchers have found red blood cells around the wounds of Oetzi, the 5,300-year-old caveman found frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.
Blood cells tend to degrade quickly, and earlier scans for blood within Oetzi’s body turned up nothing.
Now a study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows that Oetzi’s remarkable preservation extends even to the blood he shed shortly before dying.
The find represents by far the oldest red blood cells ever observed.
It is just the latest chapter in what could be described as the world’s oldest murder mystery.
Since Oetzi was first found by hikers with an arrow buried in his back, experts have determined that he died from his wounds and what his last meal was.
Researchers have found red blood cells around the wounds of Oetzi, the 5,300-year-old caveman found frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991
There has been extensive debate as to whether he fell where he died or was buried there by others.
In February, Albert Zink and colleagues at the Eurac Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy published Oetzi’s full genome.
An earlier study by the group, published in the Lancet, showed that a wound on Oetzi’s hand contained haemoglobin, a protein found in blood – but it had long been presumed that red blood cells’ delicate nature would have precluded their preservation.
Prof. Albert Zink and his colleagues collaborated with researchers at the Center for Smart Interfaces at the University of Darmstadt in Germany to apply what is known as atomic force microscopy to thin slices of tissue taken from an area surrounding the arrow wound.
The technique works using a tiny metal tip with a point just a few atoms across, dragged along the surface of a sample. The tip’s movement is tracked, and results in a 3-D map at extraordinary resolution.
The team found that the sample from Oetzi contained structures with a tell-tale “doughnut” shape, just as red blood cells have.
To ensure the structures were preserved cells and not contamination of some kind, they confirmed the find using a laser-based technique called Raman spectroscopy – those results also indicated the presence of haemoglobin and the clot-associated protein fibrin.
But the fibrin levels were much lower than would be expected in fresh wounds.
“Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that Oetzi died straight after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been mooted, and not some days after, can no longer be upheld,” Prof. Albert Zink remarked.
The team also suggests that their methods may prove to be of use in modern-day forensics studies, in which the exact age of blood samples is difficult to determine.
New details have been revealed after DNA analysis was performed on what could be described as the world’s oldest murder case of Otzi the “Iceman”, whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991.
Otzi’s full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications.
DNA analysis reveals that Otzi had brown eyes, “O” blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease.
They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.
Analysis of series of anomalies in the Iceman’s DNA also revealed him to be more closely related to modern inhabitants of Corsica and Sardinia than to populations in the Alps, where he was unearthed.
The study reveals the fuller genetic picture as laid out in the nuclei of Otzi’s cells.
This nuclear DNA is both rarer and typically less well-preserved than the DNA within mitochondria, the cell’s “power plants”, which also contain DNA.
Otzi’s mitochondrial DNA had already revealed some hints of his origins when it was fully sequenced in 2008.
Albert Zink, from the Eurac Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, said the nuclear DNA study was a great leap forward in one of the most widely studied specimens in science.
“We’ve been studying the Iceman for 20 years. We know so many things about him – where he lived, how he died – but very little was known about his genetics, the genetic information he was carrying around,” Albert Zink said.
A reconstruction shows how Otzi the Iceman may have looked like before an arrow felled him
Otzi was carrying around a “haplotype” that showed his ancestors most likely migrated from the Middle East as the practice of formal agriculture became more widespread.
It is probably this period of transition to an agrarian society that explains Otzi’s lactose intolerance.
Prof. Albert Zink said that next-generation “whole-genome” sequencing techniques made the analysis possible.
“Whole-genome sequencing allows you to sequence the whole DNA out of one sample; that wasn’t possible before in the same way.
“This was really exciting and I think it’s just the start for a longer study on this level. We still would like to learn more from this data – we’ve only just started to analyse it.”