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Posted on 29 Aug 2012

Lady of Cao, The Tattooed Mummy

Dama de Cao In 2006, at the Temple of Cao Viejo, the archaeologists of El Brujo Archaeological Project made a discovery that would forever change the vision of ancient Peru. A tomb containing the mummy of a woman perfectly preserved, tattooed and surrounded by grave goods showing the important role that this woman would had played in one of the most important societies of ancient Peru.

The Moche or Mochica culture developed between the I and VIII centuries A.D. along the northern coast of Peru, where the remains of its monumental pyramids, fortresses, palaces, and irrigation works motivate tourists nowadays to venture out on a trip to northern Peru. The Moches are also recognized for its ceramics, but mostly for their extraordinary jewelry, in which they demonstrate their mastery of metal working methods.

But who was the Lady of Cao? Evidence and symbols indicate that it was a Mochica governor with apparent supernatural abilities. It is very likely that she was a female shaman, a kind of priestess who had power over Moche’s society at the Chicama Valley, and that probably governed between IV and V DC centuries. Its importance comes from the fact of being the first evidence that indicated with certainty that in the pre-Hispanic Peru women were also meant to rule.

The Lady of Cao, like other great Mochica Lords like the Lord of Sipan, was buried with their most prized possessions: shiny nose rings, crowns and necklaces made out of gold, silver and precious stones, exquisite textiles, weapons that could only be carried by Mochica’s rulers, and also four companions to ensure a safe journey to the afterlife.

Lady of Cao Nose Ring

So if you want to learn more about the mysterious history of this powerful woman, we invite you to visit the Cao Site Museum at El Brujo Archaeological Complex, 40 kilometers (24 miles) from the city of Trujillo. Take a look to northern Peru tours and unveil the mystery of the Lady of Cao, the tattooed mummy.

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