Ancient pyramid in Peru headquarters of a ’copper culture?’

Posted May 23, 2010 by Christopher Szabo
Archaeologists in Peru have discovered a pyramid used not to bury the dead, but for the living. The 1,400-year-old structure is near the country’s coast, and scholars speculate the inhabitants were master coppersmiths.
Moche pyramids are not known to have had stairs  they used access ramps like this one.
Moche pyramids are not known to have had stairs, they used access ramps like this one.
flickr/Bruno Girin
The Sunday Independent quoted excavation leader Professor Edward Swenson, of the University of Toronto, speculating about the rulers of the pyramid and its environs. He said the rulers:
May have been considered lords – but lords of a particular kind – in transforming ore into finished products.
Or alternatively, he thinks there might have been a:
Corporation of co-operating but high status practitioners.
The team found a large number of copper items, including knives, spatulas, smelting receptacles and ornaments. The report indicated that the inhabitants imported the copper ore, and then transformed it into artefacts at the pyramid site. Swenson said:
I’ve never found such a high quantity of copper. The power of these elites could very much have been grounded in control of copper production.
When Swenson arrived at the hill, called Huaca Colorada, or ”coloured hill,” he thought there was more to it than met the eye:
I knew it was more than a natural hill – this was modified.
Of note is the fact that Huaca Colorada did not seem to have any defences. Swenson said the team found:
No walls, no sling-stones... unlike many of the sites built on the coastal hills.
However, not everything about the new discovery is innocent. The flat-topped pyramid that was built by the Moche culture contains not only a wealth of artefacts and murals, but also indications of human sacrifice.
The skeletons of three adolescent girls and parts of four other humans were found on the top of the pyramid. The girls were buried with beads around their necks, their feet close together, indicating the possibility that they had been tied up. Another indicator was charring on their knees, known as “ritualistic burning.”
The Moche are known to have practiced ritual sacrifice, but on the other hand, the skeletons show no clear signs of trauma. Swenson added:
It’s possible they were sacrificed but we don’t know.
The pyramid had ”elite” residences on the flat top. Swenson said:
Our biggest surprise was that at the top of this pyramid construction we found elite residences.
The living area housed no more than 25 people, and murals covered the corridors at the summit, one depicting a Moche warrior.
The Moche culture flourished on the Pacific coast of Peru between 100 and 800 A.D.
Excavations are continuing at the site with surveys to determine its size later this year.