Lima, Peru (EFE) – A team of Japanese and Peruvian researchers has found in northern Peru an intact 2,700-year-old tomb containing the remains of two high priests from the ancient Pacopampa culture.
The discovery was made in the Cajamarca region, 500 miles north of Lima.
Project co-director Daniel Morales told EFE the team informally dubbed the structure the "Tomb of the Serpent-Jaguar Priests," after a ceramic vessel in the shape of a serpent with a jaguar's head found alongside one of the bodies.
One of the individuals was buried with a necklace of 13 oval-shaped gold beads engraved with figure-eights, while the second was accompanied by the Serpent-Jaguar vessel, which is 8- inches tall and has a stirrup-like handle.
The first body was buried facing south, while the second is pointed to the north. They lie on one side of a large square surrounded by sculpted walls of stones, with two stairways providing access.
"Finding these remains in the same place where rituals and feasts were held, we assume they could have been priests in charge of ceremonies during this culture's peak, between 800 and 500 B.C.," Morales said.
The Pacopampa project brings together researchers from Japan's National Ethnology Museum and Peru's San Marcos University under the leadership of Japanese archaeologist Yuji Seki.
The discovery of the two priests ranks with similar findings at the Kuntur Wasi site in Cajamarca, Seki said in a statement.
The Pacopampa culture developed between 1200 and 500 B.C. at an altitude of roughly 6,885 feet in the Andes.