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The Lady of El Brujo: Unwrapping the Mummy of a High Status Moche Female

John W. Verano, Tulane University, Visiting Scholar 2005–2006, Fall

My two principal research projects during my stay at Dumbarton Oaks were the study of a recently-discovered Moche mummy from the site of El Brujo in northern coastal Peru, and the preparation of an article on trophy head-taking and human sacrifice. The article is an attempt to synthesize recent work on this subject, incorporating new archaeological discoveries and laboratory analyses, and evaluating them within the context of previous scholarship.

My project on the El Brujo mummy entailed both library research and a short trip to Peru to continue with data collection and analysis that I had begun during the summer of 2005. I presented an informal talk on this research at Dumbarton Oaks on November 17, as well as at the National Geographic Society on December 14. In November, I submitted a grant proposal to the National Geographic Society's Committee for Research and Exploration for further funding of this work, and was successful in receiving funding (NGS CRE Grant #7961–05: Anthropological study of the El Brujo mummies). I plan to return to Peru in July of 2006 to continue this research.

On December 1, I gave an invited talk at the University of Utah, entitled: Identities of the Dead: Multidisciplinary Approaches to the Study of Human Sacrificial Victims in Ancient Peru. While there, I met with faculty and graduate students and worked on a grant proposal to be submitted to the National Science Foundation on ancient DNA analysis of sacrificial victims from Punta Lobos, Peru. This is a collaborative project I am conducting in conjunction with research laboratories in the United States and Canada.