National Geographic : 2014 Jun
Peru Tomb 77 that they couldn’t desert their posts. Więckowski is awaiting the results of DNA analyses and isotopic tests to learn more about the females in the tomb and where they might have come from. But for Giersz the evidence is all beginning to add up to a detailed picture of the Wari invasion of the north coast. “The fact that they built an important temple here, on a prominent piece of land along the former borders of the Moche, strongly suggests that the Wari conquered the region and intended to stay.” In a quiet back room at the Art Museum of Lima, El Castillo’s archaeologists beam as they examine some of the newly cleaned finds. For weeks now conservators have been stripping away the thick, black patina that coated many of the metal artifacts, revealing glimmering designs. Cushioned in tissue paper are three gold ear ornaments, each roughly the size of a doorknob and bearing the image of a winged deity or mythical being. Team member Patrycja Prządka-Giersz, a University of Warsaw archae- ologist who is married to Giersz, looks them over in delight. These adornments, she says, “are all different, and we can only see them after conservation.” Peering inside a large cardboard box on the table, Giersz finds one of the team’s prize dis- coveries: a ceramic pilgrim’s flask. Richly painted and decorated, the flask depicts a sumptuously dressed Wari lord voyaging by balsa raft across coastal waters teeming with whales and other sea creatures. Found among the cherished grave goods of a dead queen at El Castillo, the 1,200-year-old flask seems to portray an event— partly mythical, partly real—in the history of the north coast, the arrival of an important Wari lord, possibly even the Wari emperor himself. “And so we are starting to make a story of the Wari emperor who takes to the sea in a raft,” says Makowski with a smile, “an emperor who dies on the Huarmey coast accompanied by his wives.” For now it is only a story, an educated archae- ological guess. But Giersz, the maverick who saw the buried outlines of walls where others saw only looters’ rubble, still thinks that the tomb of a great Wari lord may lie somewhere in the maze of walls and subterranean chambers. And if the looters haven’t beaten him to the punch, he intends to find it. j The tomb of a great Wari lord may lie somewhere in the maze of chambers.