The metal and red paint on the thirtysomething's face indicate elite status, and the presence of elites in Rontoy suggests the mysterious Chancay held a tighter grip over the Huaura River valley region than previously believed, experts said. The Chancay rose to power around A.D. 1000 and were conquered by the Inca in 1476, though the Chancay elites likely continued to rule as Inca deputies.
A long, thin black tattoo follows the angle of the mummy's knee joint. Tattoos are generally found on elite people, according to Kit Nelson, an anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, who discovered and unbundled the mummy.
X-rays of the mummy reveal no broken bones, and a visual inspection found no lethal lacerations. He may have died from an infection, though official confirmation is pending.
Other offerings such as abundant corn, a necklace of silver metal beads, and a wooden figurine are thought to be more signs of the individual's high rank.
His face was covered in red paint made of mercury sulfide that is commonly associated with the burials of high-ranking individuals. Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock said the paint and metal are indications of the mummy's status. "That individual is somebody from the upper class," he said.
The dirty-looking flecks around the mummy are offerings of corn kernels. Corn, Cock noted, was a key food and ingredient in alcohol. "Chicha was really the only alcoholic beverage that they had—[corn] is a very valuable resource," he said.
He lay on a bed of corn and was positioned below three empty niches (not visible) that are commonly associated with sacred offerings. No other prehistoric mummies were found here.
Cotton fields likely surrounded the town, Nelson said. The size of Rontoy during its heyday, however, is unknown, as the researchers are uncertain how many structures have since been destroyed by today's fast-expanding sugarcane industry.