Grave Analysis

  • By Melissa Scott Murphy
  • Posted 06.26.07
  • NOVA

Many of the burials found in the Puruchuco cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, Peru showed signs of having died extremely violent deaths, probably during the Siege of Lima by the Inca. Who were these ill-fated individuals? As a bioarcheologist, I have been examining the remains of many of these people. Here, learn what I was able to determine about one victim's sex, age, and other characteristics by analyzing that person's well-preserved skeleton.

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Explore an Inca burial with a bioarcheologist, and see how she gleans information about a long lost person and culture.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program The Great Inca Rebellion.

Melissa Scott Murphy is a bioarcheologist at Bryn Mawr College who has worked in Peru, Israel, and France. She appears in NOVA's program "The Great Inca Rebellion" as one of the experts working on the Puruchuco burials.



(full skeleton, close-up of skeletal hand, crouched burial, burial with artifacts)
Courtesy Guillermo Cock
(pelvis, tibia, cranium, lower jaw)
Courtesy Melissa Murphy

Related Links

  • The Great Inca Rebellion

    Mass graves and forensic evidence reveal a complex truth about how the Inca Empire fell.

  • Outfitting for Inca Battles

    Inca and conquistador soldiers had very different gear—and that made all the difference.

  • Inca Skull Surgery

    See evidence of a radical surgical procedure common among the Inca 500 years ago.

  • Rise of the Inca

    How did the Inca Empire become as vast as the Roman in just over a century?


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