"The state of preservation is really, really good," Cock said. The only damage encountered so far is in the graves closest to the surface, which have been damaged by passing people and wildlife.
Since the mummy bundles are only partially excavated, it is too early to tell how many individuals were buried at the site, but one of the damaged bundles shows the remains of an adult and at least one child.
Cock said the bundles are of medium, or normal, size, suggesting that the Inca buried there were part of the middle class. Some of the bundles recovered in past years at Tupac Amaru were large and believed to be the remains of Inca elite.
Like the artifacts found at Tupac Amaru, most of the tools recovered at the new site suggest these Inca were textile makers. Red corn, black beans, and gourds for drinking were found around the bundles and are indicative of preburial rituals.
"It may well be that these people belonged to an extended family that was related to the others," Cock said. "But for some reason that we are trying to determine, they were buried outside the main cemetery [at Puruchuco]."
The small hill where the Inca cemetery was found is all that stands between the two sections of Lima's new highway, a project 30 years in the making.
There are no plans to reroute the road now that the cemetery has been discovered. There are also no legal or technical challenges that could stop it, Cock said. He and his team will continue excavating for another two months, and then road construction will begin.
When complete, the road will pass nearby, but not over, the cemetery. "The true problem is the looters," he said. "If we leave the cemetery it is going to be destroyed in a few weeks."
The excavated and salvaged remains will be moved to a museum before construction of the highway begins.
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