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Bolivian pyramid concealed corpse, jewels for 1,300 years

May 05, 2007|From Reuters

Archeologists have uncovered the 1,300-year-old skeleton of a ruler or priest of the ancient Tiwanaku civilization together with precious jewels inside a much-looted pyramid in western Bolivia.

The bones are "in very good condition," Roger Angel Cossio, the Bolivian archeologist who made the discovery, said Wednesday.

He said the tomb -- containing a diadem and fist-sized carved pendant of solid gold -- survived centuries of looting by Spanish invaders and raiders who depleted Tiwanaku of many precious treasures.

"After so much looting ... miraculously this has stayed to tell us the history," Cossio said.

"It's a complete body.... Next to it are jewels, offerings and a llama," he said.

The llama may have been a status symbol or a source of food for the journey to the afterlife, archeologists said.

The corpse was found in a niche carved inside the 15-yard-high Akapana pyramid, which was built around 1200 BC and is described as one of the biggest pre-Columbian constructions in South America.

At its peak, the city of Tiwanaku stretched over 1,480 acres and had a population of more than 100,000, according to chief archeologist Javier Escalante, who presented the findings Wednesday at a news conference near the pyramid.

The Tiwanaku civilization spread throughout southwestern Bolivia and parts of neighboring Peru, Argentina and Chile between around 1500 BC and AD 1200.

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