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‘3,000 Years of History Are Literally Just Beneath Our Feet’

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“Buyers would come from Chiclayo and we’d sell the pieces for a pittance because we didn’t know what they were value,” Mr. Villareal said. He recalled finding and trading masks, shell necklaces, gold pectorals and ceramic sculptures with erotic themes.

At the brand new site, he helped to fastidiously pack a skull to move to a Cálidda lab for further investigation. “We’d have discarded all of this,” Mr. Villareal said.

The newly uncovered graves were most probably a part of a cemetery used for lots of of years by different groups that farmed along the Chillón River, said Roberto Quispe, an archaeologist with Cálidda. Archaeologists first became aware of it after seeing aerial photos, taken within the Forties, that showed the telltale signs of tomb raiding.

“You see some plots of farmland and next to them an empty lot that’s completely stuffed with holes,” Mr. Quispe said. “The cemetery had been completely looted and other people began to choose top of it.”

As Mr. Quispe worked inside a tomb, a restaurant nearby blasted cumbia music and passers-by stopped to observe and take pictures.

“I got here to point out my kids and nephews,” said Rolando Torres, a neighborhood resident, as children in class uniforms peered into certainly one of the graves. A neighbor had sent Mr. Torres a video of the invention, so he got here immediately to see the positioning. “We who live here, this is a component of our ancestry,” he said.

The objects present in the graves correspond to the Chancay culture, which occupied an area north of Lima from 1,200 to 1,450 A.D., and to an earlier cultural development referred to as Huaura. The unearthed items include a ceramic flute, a figurine perhaps representing a goddess and an early version of a cuchimilco, a ceramic figurine with an expression of awe or surprise that was placed in Chancay tombs to accompany the dead.

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