Examining the facial bone structure of the Lady of Cao, whose remains were found in a 2006, scientists in Peru were able to recreate what she would have looked like while still alive. Experts believe the Lady of Cao, who was a prominent figure in the Northern Peru’s Moche culture, likely died as a result of complications from pregnancy, or childbirth, while in her 20s. The replica of her face took scientists 10 months to recreate.
The Lady of Cao was discovered in the ruins of the Huaca Cao Viejo pyramid, buried with a crown and several artifacts made from copper and gold.
Salvador del Solar, Peru’s minister of culture said the Lady of Cao’s oval face and high cheekbones would resonate with Peruvians, many of which have similar features. He also said, “we are privileged to announce this strange combination of the future and the past: technology has allowed us to see the face of a political and religious leader from a culture from the past.”
Check out the video below to learn more about the Lady of Cao.
Every once in a while, archaeologists make a finding so incredible, that headlines all throughout the world exploit the sensational aspects of the discovery. Such is the case of a recently unveiled mass grave containing the remains of 250 sacrificed children in Peru. The lead archeologist in the site, Feren Castillo, told AFP: “This is the biggest site where the remains of sacrificed children have been found. It’s uncontrollable, this thing with the children. Wherever you dig, there’s another one”. It is believed that more remains could be found.
This is what you need to know about this amazing discovery that unearths more knowledge about the Chimú civilization from Northern Peru, specifically from the Moche Valley. Alongside the Incas, the Chimú created a network of trade, political systems, religious institutions and enviable skills as craftspeople.
So first things first, who were the Chimú people?
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Chimú culture is responsible for much of the development of pre Columbine Northern Peru. Power was concentrated in the city of Chan Chan, a large adobe settlement on what is modern day Trujillo. They succeeded the Moche people and their civilization arose around 900 AD. Their downfall, around the year 1470, was product of an invasion by the Inca emperor Inca Yupanqui. The Spanish obliterated what was left of this proud indigenous civilization.
We have to get rid of our colonialist gaze before reading the details of the finding!
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When we read stories like this our mind tends to judge them by current standards. Words like “savage” and “barbaric” often are used in media reports and everyday conversations. This inquisitive worldview is product of the mixing of European and indigenous moral and ethical standards. Latin America is largely a mestizo region where European worldviews prevailed. Yes, of course sacrificing children is appalling, but we should not perpetuate the idea that the original inhabitants of the continent were a bunch of blood-thirsty savages before colonization. Doing so only keeps racist ideas alive and this affects indigenous populations even today.
So who were the children and where were they found?
The finding is as important as it is perplexing: the remains of up to 250 underage individuals. According to scientists, the bodies indicate that the children were aged from 4 to 12 years old. As reported by Andina, the Peruvian state media agency, the remains of up to 40 warriors were also found. The sacrifices occurred between the 13th and 15th centuries. The site is located in Pampa La Cruz, an archaeological site in Huanchaco-La Libertad, north of Lima. The reason for the ritual offering hits close to home in our turbulent times and the climate crisis we are experiencing.
The Chimú knew how to survive in the desert, so any change in the climate was devastating. This is the reason behind the sacrifices.
Credit: Instagram. @sheyllamoncada
Northern Peru is an arid landscape where human settlements need to run like clockwork to guarantee survival. The Chimúdepended on the replenishment of a network of rivers and streams that were fundamental for irrigation and human consumption. Too much water also brought disaster. Changes in the weather spelled doom for the Chimú. In an attempt to make peace with their gods they made an offering of children and warriors. Deutsche Welle reports: “Castillo said in this case he believes they were killed in hopes it would appease the gods and bring an end to El Nino, a cyclical climate pattern that can result in heavy rainfall and storms on the western coasts of South America. His theory is backed up by the fact that soil samples show that the children died during an extremely wet season, and that they were facing the sea”.
Human sacrifice was not uncommon in pre-Columbine civilizations. The Aztecs in what is now Mexico, for example, often sacrificed their own, as well as their adversaries, to their deities.
All hail Pacasmayo: they sacrificed their children to the moon.
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Among the deities that the Chimú worshipped, the moon of Pacasmayo ruled supreme. Because the moon can be seen both during the day and at night, it was believed to be much more powerful than the Sun. Pacasmayo received animal and human sacrifices. Some parents even sacrificed their own children. They believed that through this ritual practice the children, often five years-old, would become deified. The Sun, Mars, Earth and some constellations were also worshipped. The magnitude of the recent discovery implies that the situation was urgent. As Sputnik News Service reports, Gabriel Prieto, professor of archeology from the National University of Trujillo, said: “This number of children, this number of animals—it would have been a massive investment on behalf of the state”.
The Chimú were also very skillful craftsmen, particularly with gold.
Credit: Instagram. @arts_premiers
The Chimú developed large civil engineering projects to irrigate the desert, and they were also very skilled working with metals such as gold, copper, silver, bronze and a mix of copper and gold called tumbaga. To get some of these metals they had to travel for more than three days, which speaks of the reaches of their political power.
Have you ever wondered what your ancestors looked like — if you shared the same cheekbones, hair texture, skin tone or smile? Sure, some of us have seen illustrated reimaginings of our ancient forebearers, but there still remains a longing to know what they might have looked, felt or sounded like in real life. In Sweden, one man is using his artistic talents and archeological knowledge to give us a glimpse of our primordial relatives.
Oscar Nilsson is a sculptor and archaeologist who specializes in reconstructing faces.
Since the 1990s, he’s been using his skills to hand-sculpt the faces of people who lived hundreds to thousands of years ago. Through his company, O.D. Nilssons, the creative works with various museums to help restore faces of people whose remains were discovered during archaeological excavations.
In the past two decades, Nilsson has revived more than a dozen primitive individuals. He has restructured a young woman from the Stone Age, who lived in what is now Brighton, United Kingdom about 5,500 years ago. His reimaginings show that people who originally inhabited the area weren’t white but rather a deep brown that resembles those from North Africa. He recreated the face of an 18-year-old girl who lived in modern-day Greece about 7,000 years before Christ; a malnourished, anemic man who lived during the Bronze Age about 3,700 years ago; and a well-built man with a “Suebian knot” who lived in Britain about 2,400 years ago in the Iron Age.
In addition to the unnamed progenitors, Nilsson has also used unearthed remains to restructure the faces of leaders of the past world. Through his work, he has brought to life Birger Jarl, the ruler of Sweden from 1248 until his death on Oct. 1, 1266, as well as Estrid Sigfastsdotter, a rich woman who lived in XI century AD near Stockholm and died around the age of 80 at a time when the life expectancy was about 35 years old.
One of our favorite Nilsson reconstructions, however, is that of Huarmey Queen, a Wari monarch woman from what is today northwest Peru.
In 2012, a Polish archeological group found a burial of the indigenous Wari culture, which would later become the Incan Empire. The tomb carried the remains of 58 noblewomen of different ages, all buried with “extraordinary luxuries.” Huarmey Queen, for instance, was entombed with jewelry, gold ear flares, a silver goblet, a copper ceremonial axe and expensive textiles, among other splendors. In his sculpture, the woman is seen aged, with peppered hair and wrinkled skin. She has deep brown eyes, sharp cheekbones, lightly golden skin and large gauges in her ears.
Nilsson is able to make his restorations through a process that requires much time, patience, skill as well as anatomical, archaeological and historical understanding. The sculptor uses skulls discovered during archaeological digs as his base. He digitally scans the remains in an effort to perfectly map the craniums, using a 3D printer to rebuild them. With his knowledge of anatomy, he then overlays the restructured skulls with muscles. Using DNA analysis of the corpse as well as the surroundings of the site where the remains were found, he adds details like skin, hair, eye color and clothing.
In his work, he uses skin-pigmented silicone, actual human hair — which he inserts strand by strand — and prosthetic eyes. The entire process for one face restructure takes about 200 hours.
“The human face is a motif that never ceases to fascinate me: the variation of the underlying structure as well as the variety in details seem endless,” he says on his website. “And all the faces I reconstruct are unique. They are all individuals.”
As a university student, the artist studied archaeology, hoping to become a forensic artist. The man, who says he is fascinated by faces and history, told the DailyMail that he “wanted to see what the people from history look like.”
Through his collaborations with museums, which hire him to recreate faces for various historical exhibitions, he is also able to give people a glimpse of what their own ancestors looked like. For him, his human-like sculptures are both a window into the past as well as a way to engage youth in history.
“I hope people get a feeling of ’I know this guy,’” he said. “It is the most effective way to make history relevant, especially to the younger generations.”