Lady of Cao
by Sarah Corbett
In 2006 a female mummy was found in Peru. She was discovered at El Brujo, an archaeological site which is 45km north of Trujillo in the La Libetad region.

The riches within the burial site and the ceremonial items such as weapons found with the mummy, suggest that the Lady of Cao may have been a high priestess or possibly a Moche ruler.

Little is known about the Moche, a Pre lncan culture, but surviving art and pottery represent a people who lived vivaciously, greeting birth, violence, sex, nature and death with equal regard.
The Lady of Cao died around 1500 years ago, she was in her mid 20’s and probably died in childbirth. The Moche did not practice mummification however, the local conditions which were perfect for desiccation, by chance preserved the Lady of Cao and also preserved her intricate tattoos.
There is no belief by historians that Moche common status people were tattooed, however the discovery of this tomb suggests that highest status members wore tattoos.
The Lady of Cao’s tattoos included serpents, spiders and crabs, all of which were considered to be divine creatures – by being adorned in this way inference is that the divine exists within her skin, this connection to the supernatural was likely to have elevated her perceived power among her followers or subjects.
There was a second body within the tomb, believed to be that of a teenage girl who had been sacrificed. Items of jewellery made from gold, sewing needles also of gold, weaving tools and weapons had been buried along with this important Lady.
The mummy was a large cotton bundle with an embroidered face, covered with a cane mat, and resting on a pillow. As the thin cotton strips were gradually removed and recorded, hundreds of objects were discovered within the bindings. Glass beads and numerous necklaces were found, along with nose ornaments and earrings made in gold, gilded copper and silver, all were finely worked. The face of the Lady of Cao was covered with a golden bowl.
These rich adornments along with war clubs and spear throwers, lead to a conclusion that this was a lady of great importance.

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