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Wari Masked Mummy | Lima, Peru
(AP Photo/Karel Navarro)

Not all big discoveries come from out-of-the-way places. In August, Peruvian archaeologists announced they had found an intact mummy from the Wari culture in a burial mound beneath a busy Lima neighborhood. Wrapped in six layers of cotton and llama-wool textiles, the 1,700-year-old mummy was probably a working mother. A team led by archaeologist Isabel Flores also found knitting needles, balls of yarn, and other items associated with weaving buried with the mummy. "She must have been the chief of the weavers, or head of a knitting circle or a guild that made textiles," says Flores.

The mummy, one of three found in the mound, along with the body of a possibly sacrificed infant, wore a wooden mask with a feminine face and large blue eyes made of seashells--a captivating detail that has earned her the nickname la Dama de la Máscara (the Mask Lady). The team removed the mummy for laboratory analysis after excavating gourds, kitchen vessels, textiles, and other objects that accompanied the Mask Lady and the other mummies. Surrounded today by apartment towers and trendy restaurants and shops, the adobe mound in the city's Miraflores district is considered one of the most important surviving structures built by the so-called Lima culture, which flourished for about 500 years from A.D. 100. With the discovery of the graves, archaeologists now have further evidence of the Wari sweeping into the area from the southern Peruvian highlands and occupying the Lima culture's major ceremonial sites.

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