The cinnabar used by the Moche to paint tattoos on their skin some 1,600 years ago may have been mined locally, according to recent findings by archaeologist Regulo Franco.
In 2006, Franco and his archaeology team at the El Brujo site on Peru’s north coast discovered the tomb of the Señora de Cao, a young mother who was obviously a ruler, buried around A.D. 400 in 26 layers of fine cloth and flanked by carved spears and clubs as signs of power. From pots found in the tomb, she is believed to have died after childbirth, possibly from eclampsia.
One of the unique features was that, besides being magnificently decorated in glittering nose rings, crowns and necklaces, her skin was delicately tattooed with drawings of snakes, fish and other figures, which led to her nickname of the Tattooed Lady. Read more.
Archaeologists have discovered a 12,000-year-old iron oxide mine in Chile that marks the oldest evidence of organized mining ever found in the Americas, according to a report in the June issue of Current Anthropology.
A team of researchers led by Diego Salazar of the Universidad de Chile found the 40-meter trench near the coastal town of Taltal in northern Chile. It was dug by the Huentelauquen people—the first settlers in the region—who used iron oxide as pigment for painted stone and bone instruments, and probably also for clothing and body paint, the researchers say.
The remarkable duration and extent of the operation illustrate the surprising cultural complexity of these ancient people. “It shows that [mining] was a labor-intensive activity demanding specific technical skills and some level of social cooperation transmitted through generations,” Salazar and his team write. Read more.