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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Tattooed mummy discovered in Peru
Archaeologists inspect the Moche mummy (Photo provided by the National Geographic Society)

A tattooed mummy has been found in Peru which archaeologists say is one of the best-ever relics of a civilisation that ended more than 1,300 years ago.

The mummy, herself 1,500 years old, is of a woman in her 20s, believed to be an elite member of the Moche tribe.

The skeleton of an adolescent girl offered in sacrifice was found with a rope still around its neck.

The archaeologists from Peru and the US found the mummy at a site called El Brujo on the north coast near Trujillo.

They have dated the mummy to about 450 AD.

Unclear death

The presence of fine items such as gold jewellery indicates the woman was an important person, anthropologist John Verano of Tulane University in the US said.

But the presence of war clubs surprised the archaeological team.

"Perhaps she was a female warrior, or may be the war clubs and spear throwers were symbols of power that were funeral gifts from men," Mr Verano said.

The archaeologists believe she had given birth at least once, but do not know how she died.

The discovery is reported in the June issue of the National Geographic Magazine.

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