Lima, Peru  |  Wednesday, May 24, 2017 04:49 am  |  |  | 

Beyond Volunteering
Book hotels in Lima, Peru
Culture & History | February 15, 2011 [ 10:41 ]

Peru's Lady of Cao mummy died during childbirth

By Emily Finn

The restoration of the Lady of Cao mummy. (Photo: La República)

A recent study suggests that the Lady of Cao, a spectacularly well-preserved mummy found in northern Peru in 2006, died of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The warrior woman and leader, whose 1,600-year-old remains are now housed at El Brujo Archaeological Complex in La Libertad, is believed to have suffered from eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures during pregnancy.

According to Jordi Esteban Farre, a Spanish forensic doctor conducting research on the mummy, evidence from her arms and the tissue on her hands suggests that she withstood intense seizures. He further explained that the position in which she was found—with her wrists in perfect condition, even though her arms were oddly positioned—has a pathological significance, pointing to death by convulsion.

Though he recognizes that it is difficult to prove, Esteban Farre cites extensive evidence supporting his hypothesis. Eclampsia causes not only seizures, but also respiratory and circulatory problems in pregnant women. Although it is a relatively rare complication, even today an estimated 50,000 women die of eclampsia annually.

So, the Lady of Cao was pregnant—probably in her third trimester, judging by the stretch marks on her abdomen—and died during complications at birth. It is unclear if she successfully delivered or if the complications caused a stillbirth. Esteban Farre suggests that she died approximately 48 hours after the onset of labor, since her pelvic muscles and ligaments are stretched, as they would be after delivery.

The Lady of Cao, who was likely between 20 and 25 at the time of her death, was a ruler of the Mochica people, who occupied a long, thin stretch of territory along the northern coast of Peru. She is also called the “Tattooed Mummy” because of the web of still-visible tattoos on her arms depicting spiders and snakes, which are believed to have symbolized fertility and her powers as a prophet. She was found buried with jewelry and weapons made of precious metals and gemstones, and her body embalmed with mercury sulfate, which preserved her remains to a remarkable degree. Archaeologists have also uncovered Mochica weavings and ceramics in the area, some of which date back 5,000 years.

Archaeological director of the El Brujo complex Régulo Franco stated that Esteban Farre has the institution’s support to continue investigating the details of the Lady of Cao’s death. He added that full results of Esteban Farre’s study would be published soon.

 | digg it! | StumbleUpon | |

Add your comment


Notify me via e-mail of new comments to this entry

Code :


  • Comments are the property of their respective authors, and is not responsible for the content of these comments
  • Only comments in English will be published
  • Por ahora solo se permiten comentarios en ingles.
  • Any offensive, injurious, profane or disrespectful comments will not be published
  • You must include a real email address (this WILL be verified) for your comments to be published
  • Repeat comments, or comments of a similar nature written by the same person will not be published
  • All comments are sent to a moderator before publication
  • Referring to the topic indicated in the article will increase your chances of publication
  • Repeat offenses of the above guidelines will result in the removal of your ability to comment


News Sections (Archive)

  1. Politics (1727)
  2. Earthquakes, tremors (198)
  3. Lima (968)
  4. Outside of Lima (2110)
  5. Narcotics (10)
  6. 2011 Elections (389)
  7. Mining & Energy (530)
  8. Arts & Entertainment (641)
  9. Business (1393)
  10. Economy (1495)
  11. Law & Order (1137)
  12. Crime (71)
  13. Travel & Tourism (996)
  14. Sports (798)
  15. Health (419)
  16. Culture & History (437)
  17. Education (151)
  18. Environment/Nature (367)
  19. Tech & Communications (20)
  20. Interview (1)
  21. Food (293)
  22. Celebrities (89)
  23. International Relations (682)

Last 5 news articles

Last comments

See all comments

News web syndication [RSS]
what is "web syndication" ?