Archaeologists in northern Peru unearth 3,000-year-old tomb believed to honor priest

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Archeologists uncover "Priest of Pacopampa," at Pacopampa Archaeologic Project dig site in northern Peru, which they estimate to be about 3,000 years old. (Peru Ministry of Culture)

Archaeologists working in the northern highlands of Peru at a site called Pacopampa unearthed a tomb estimated to be 3,000 years old and believed to have honored an elite religious leader.

Reuters reported that the archeologists called the discovery, "Priest of Pacopampa," named after the archeological zone where the tomb was uncovered.

The tomb was covered with six layers of ash mixed with black earth, and was decorated with ceramic bowls.

The tomb also had two seals along the upper edges of the tomb, which indicate ancient ritual body paint used for people with nobility, Peru’s Culture Ministry said on Saturday.

One of the seals was a jaguar design facing west, while the other was an anthropomorphic face looking east.

Yuji Seki, who led the project, described the large tomb as nearly 2 meters in diameter and one meter deep, which he added was "very peculiar." The body’s positioning was also peculiar, he noted, because it was lying face down with half of his body extended and feet crossed.

Seki also reportedly said a bone shaped into a tupu, or a large pin used by Andean Amerindians to hold cloaks and ponchos, was found with the body. Typically, he added, tupus are used to hold a woman’s blanket.

"Though this person is a man, the associations are very peculiar," Seki said. "I think this was a leader in his time."

According to the ministry, archeologists have been working on the Pacopampa Archeological Project since 2005.

The rock layers the tomb was discovered under indicated he would have been buried about 1,200 B.C.

Archeologists also uncovered the tombs of the "Lady of Pacopampa" in 2009, and the "Priests of the Serpent Jaguar of Pacopampa" in 2015.

The "Priest of Pacopampa" is estimated to be about five centuries older than the two previous tombs.

However, the "Priest of Plutos," which was discovered in 2022, is believed to be older.

Reuters contributed to this report.