Archaeologists discover 1,500-year-old ‘battle claws’ in ancient Peruvian tomb

The paws were found at the archaeological site of Huaca de la Luna or Temple of the Moon - a shrine located in the capital city of the Moche civilization, a Peruvian culture that flourished in South America between 100 and 800 AD.

The scientists who discovered the grave suggest that the claws might have been part of a ritual costume used in ceremonial combat, according to a report from El Comercia. Participants dressed in outfits made of animal skins and the loser was sacrificed to the gods while the winner kept the garments as a mark of distinction.

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Moche earflares found on the North Coast of Peru. These date to AD 400-600 (Early Intermediate), and are made of gold alloy, turquoise, and stone inlay.

Fine craftsmanship typifies the precious metal jewelry worn by the Moche elite. From cast decorative edgings, to hammered sheets of gold rolled into shafts, to the intricate inlays of semiprecious stones, these astonishing ornaments embellished members of the elite. Not only did the dazzling artworks glitter in the brilliant desert sun, symbolically bathing the wearer in the power of the golden orb, but their symbolic imagery and exceptional artistry enhanced the status and authority of the bejeweled person.

The earflares were the personal ornaments of a member of the Moche elite. They feature a striding warrior with his club weapon thrust forward at the ready. A round shield typical of Moche combatants protects his midsection from the blows of an opponent. His conical helmet-hat is that of a high-ranking person and recalls the head covering of the Warrior Priest, the key figure in the Sacrifice Ceremony that was the culmination of Moche ritual warfare. (walters)

Courtesy of & currently located at the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore: 2009.20.65.

Student helps discover priestess tomb

Matthew Go, a 20-year-old Simon Fraser University archaeology undergraduate student in the Faculty of Environment, can now add priestess-tomb discoverer to his list of accomplishments on his résumé.

The budding expert on human osteology—the study of human bones—was the only Canadian among nine international archaeologists who unearthed an ancient Moche priestess’ chamber tomb in northwest Peru in July.

The mainly Peruvian expedition made its find while digging at the San José de Moro (SJM) Archaeological Project (SJMAP). Archaeology professor Luis Jaime Castillo at Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP) in Lima leads the 23-year-old dig. Read more.


Moche (North Coast, Peru)

Created: Early Intermediate Period, Phase IV, 450-600 CE

Mint Museum

Moche Mural in Peru Revealed in Stunning Detail

In the bone-dry coastal desert of northern Peru, the ancient Moche sculpted and painted intricate murals on the adobe walls of the site now known as Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon). Created between A.D. 100 and 800, the images hold intriguing clues to a mysterious people who left no written texts to help explain their beliefs and customs.

Now, a composite photo in super high resolution has captured one of those murals in amazing detail, allowing anyone with a computer to zoom in for close-up views of individual figures. (Click here for the interactive version of the photo.)

Covering 200 square feet (19 square meters) in the corner of one of the temple’s plazas, the polychrome relief vividly portrays scenes from the spiritual life of the Moche. Read more.