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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 March, 2004, 01:03 GMT
Ancient Inca mummies discovered
Skull of excavated mummy
The graves go back to when Lima was founded as a city
Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered an Inca burial site intact outside Lima containing adult and child mummies dating back to the 15th Century.

A team working on the site on a barren hill outside the capital located 26 tombs containing an unknown number of mummies and funereal artefacts.

It was allowed to search the area, part of a known ancient cemetery, ahead of the construction of a new road.

One archaeologist described the graves as being "middle class... Inca".

"These are local inhabitants... belonging to the period of the Inca Empire, between 1472 and 1532," Guillermo Cock told Reuters news agency.

'Lucky find'

Mr Cock said he had begun the dig in part of the Puruchuco-Huaquerones cemetery at the invitation of Lima city authorities.

Dig site
Inca graves are often found by accident during building work

He said Puruchuco-Huaquerones was the largest Inca cemetery in Peru and the largest excavated cemetery in the Western Hemisphere. But observers say the new find is a rare piece of luck for archaeologists.

"The important thing about this discovery is that it is intact," Mr Cock said, pointing out that the area showed evidence of funereal rituals such as corn, beans, coca leaves and pots.

Lima plans to move the find to a museum before pressing ahead with work on a busy new highway.

Another archaeologist, Federico Kauffmann, suggested it would be better to dig a road tunnel instead, given the site's importance.

Country profile: Peru
16 Dec 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: Peru
13 Dec 03  |  Country profiles

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