A team of archaeologists from universities in Poland, Peru and Colombia have discovered 150 mummies in the Atacama Desert belonging to an unknown culture that predate the Tiwanaku and Inca civilization by almost 500 years.
The bodies were mummified naturally by being buried directly in the sand with no stone structures, wrapped in cotton veils, reed mats or fishing nets, and radiocarbon dating shows that the oldest mummies came from 4th century AD, while the youngest mummies came from 7th century AD.
The Tiwanaku civilisation is believed to have existed between 500AD and 1,000 AD, covering much of what is Peru and Chile today. Under Project Tambo, the team have been excavating in the Tambo River delta in the northern region of the Atacama Desert since 2008 and the first mummies were found in 2012, but it took until March 2014 for the team to make major discoveries.
According to Professor Józef Szykulski, leader of the research project from University of Wrocław, the mummies are of virtually unknown people, and the bows are a particularly interesting find that possibly symbolised power, which could mean that people buried in the Tambo River delta were nobility or the society's elite.