CW: Human sacrifice, gore
The ancient Moche culture of northern Peru was highly sophisticated, and is well known for its beautiful ceramics, detailed gold work, enormous huacas (revered monuments) and elaborate religious rituals.
Their brutal belief system centred largely on war, blood, sex and death. Ritual human sacrifice appears to have been common, as well as drinking blood and excarnation (stripping the flesh from a corpse to leave only the bones). Until recently, it was believed that this was a patriarchal religion, presided over by male priests.
The tomb of the Lady of Cao was only discovered in 2006, though it is estimated that she died around 450 CE. She was laid to rest surrounded by ceremonial items which included weapons and gold jewellery, indicating that she was a woman of high rank.
Her body had been mummified by the hot, dry climate, meaning that an autopsy could be performed to reveal more about her life and death. The lady was heavily tattooed with images of snakes and spiders (sacred animals in Moche culture) as well as other symbols.
Archaeologists believe that she may have been a priestess or even a ruler. It is estimated that the Lady of Cao was only in her twenties when she died as a complication from pregnancy or childbirth. A second young woman was buried in the same tomb, potentially a human sacrifice.
See also: Puabi of Ur is another high ranking woman whose tomb was discovered in Iraq – she is believed to have been either a priestess or a ruler circa 3000 BCE.
Mummy of Tattooed Woman Discovered in Peru Pyramid – Scott Norris for the National Geographic
Tomb of the Tattooed Sorceress Queen, The Lady of Cao – Ancient Origins