for National Geographic News
The remains of 80 members of an ancient civilization have been unearthed in the ruins of a fortress high in the Peruvian Andes, an archaeologist has announced.
The skeletons bear evidence of extremely quick deaths, the bodies having been found where they fell, without burial, reported Alfredo Narváez, director of Peru's Kuélap Archaeological Complex Restoration and Conservation project.
The remains were discovered in the fortress of Kuélap, a mountain stronghold of the Chachapoya, a culture known as the "cloud warriors" that thrived in Amazonian cloud forests from the 9th to the 15th century A.D.
"In recent days we have discovered the bones of at least 80 people," Narváez said late yesterday.
The bodies belonged to people of all ages and both sexes and were found alongside everyday utensils and tools, he said.
"We observed bodies together, dispersed and in positions they seemed to be when they died," he said.
The haphazard positioning of the bodies, the presence of everyday artifacts, and the lack of ceremonial burials falls counter to what experts say was the Chachapoya custom of meticulously burying relatives.
"It seems it all happened very quickly, without time to bury the bodies," Narváez said.
"Our team began to ask questions," he said. "Was there violence? Had there been an epidemic due to the presence of the Spanish? Future studies will give the answer."
Narváez first reported the discovery last week, prompting regional press reports that 40 mummies had been found.
The body count, however, has increased in recent days, according to the researcher, and none of the bodies—all found under deep layers of rock and dirt—were mummified. (See a photo of a Chachapoya mummy.)
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