Near Lima, Peru, archaeologists believe they have discovered the first gunshot victim in the Western Hemisphere. In a shallow grave, surrounded by a large group of ancient Incan bones, the skull had an almost perfectly round hole, leading experts to wonder at first whether it had been made by a slingshot, spear, or some other circular weapon.
The Incans who died here, however, appear to have been killed rather violently – likely as a result of the Spanish Conquistadors, who battled against the Incan empire around 500 years ago. The shallow graves seem to suggest that the victims were buried in a hurry, which usually means that the burials were conducted during a time of conflict – in this case, possibly during a known uprising against the Spanish invaders in 1536.
In order to determine what made the hole in the one victim’s skull, forensic experts looked for a trace of metal around the wound, believing there was a very slim chance that any traces would remain after this long. However, against the odds, they found minute fragments of musket ball metal stuck inside the area surrounding the hole! Further examination revealed that the musket shot was less than an inch in diameter, and was powerful enough to enter the back of the victim’s skull and exit through the top of the head at an angle.
Since identifying this skeleton as the first gunshot victim in the Americas, two more gunshot victims have also been located among the bones, with further research on their conditions still to come!
As for the hastily buried bodies, their burials absolutely did not conform to the typical Incan burial customs: they were facing the wrong direction in the graves, they were wrapped only in a simple cloth, the graves were far too shallow, and there were no burial offerings – something absolutely unthinkable in many ancient burial rites. A closer look at the Incan mummies also revealed something more disturbing – many of the bodies seemed to have been hacked up and were missing limbs, there was evidence of impalement by iron weapons, and chunks of the bodies appeared to have been torn apart, in addition to the several bodies with gunshot wounds.
Although it is still not conclusively known what occurred here, the Incans buried here were clearly victims of some horrific and extremely violent acts. Hopefully, further forensic study on the bodies from these graves will help to shed some light exactly what happened at this site in Peru.
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