Ace in the hole! Archeologists stumble upon 1200-year-old tomb after nearly falling down burial hole

The 20-year-old man had been buried in a sitting position and covered with cloth. He had a dozen well-used bronze tools with him, including a saw, a variety of knives, an axe and chisel. Miłosz Giersz

Polish archeologists in Peru have accidentally discovered a 1200-year-old metallurgist’s tomb – after nearly falling into a hole where it was buried.

The tomb was uncovered near Huarmey, where the scientists have been working for a few years now.

But unlike previous discoveries where remains were found of people who had been ritualistically sacrificed, the body in the latest find had been buried with the tools of his trade placed on his chest.

Tools made from a rare type of bronze – copper alloy with arsenic, rather than more common tin – were found with the skeleton.Miłosz Giersz

The tomb was uncovered purely by chance when the archeologists were investigating a site located in a ceremonial area where religious rituals were carried out and the remains of sacrificial Ilamas had previously been found, when one of the students helping with the excavations almost fell into a hole.

To their surprise, they uncovered a well-preserved grave. Prof. Miłosz Giersz, from Warsaw University’s Centre for Precolumbian Studies, the head of the mission, told PAP: “That's why when we came across a man's burial this year, we initially thought it was also a sacrifice. In the meantime, it turned out that this case was different.”

Professor Miłosz Giersz said: “The alloy with arsenic guaranteed that these were really hard tools that could be used for a variety of farm and carving jobs.”Miłosz Giersz

The 20-year-old man had been buried in a sitting position and covered with cloth. He had a dozen well-used bronze tools with him, including a saw, a variety of knives, an axe and chisel.

Analysis carried out by Toronto University’s Branden Rizzuto showed that the tools were made of a rare type of bronze – copper alloy with arsenic, rather than more common tin.

Giersz said: "The alloy with arsenic guaranteed that these were really hard tools that could be used for a variety of farm and carving jobs."

University of Warsaw’s ‘Indiana Jones.’ Prof. Miłosz Giersz dug up the first intact tomb of aristocrats from the Wari civilization. The discovery was among the top 10 archaeological discoveries of the year according to the American magazine Archeology.archeologia.uw.edu.pl

The most astonishing finding was an obsidian knife, as the material was rare in the Wari culture. Giersz explained: "Obsidian was considered a very valuable raw material in the Wari culture, as well as in other cultures of America, it was imported from a very long distance, this particular one from Quispisis, obsidian outcrops located over a thousand kilometers in a straight line north of Huarmey".

In 2012, the Warsaw University archeology mission found a pre-Incas tomb on the top of the mountain, where they found the buried metallurgist. With over 64 bodies and 1,200 valuable objects made from silver, gold, bronze, of alabaster and other materials, it was astonishingly untouched and hadn’t been plundered.

In 2012, the Warsaw University archeology mission found a pre-Incas tomb on the top of the same mountain, where they found the buried metallurgist. With over 64 bodies and 1,200 valuable objects made from silver, gold, bronze, of alabaster and other materials, it was astonishingly untouched and hadn’t been plundered.PAP

Attributed to the pre-Inca Wari culture, just like the metallurgist’s tomb, it was dated back to the 8th century. The bodies found belonged mostly to women, which made the archeologists think that the tomb belonged to one of the Wari leaders and her retinue of noble women.

The Centre for Precolumbian Studies was established in 1988. Since then, Polish archaeologists have conducted extensive works in South America, with missions in Huarmey, Machu Picchu, Cusco and Easter Islands.