Surface cleaning of a recently excavated funerary bundle, Wari Kayán cemetery, 1927 (Archivo INC/ MNAAHP, Inv. 622-PAR/52)

Julio C. Tello opening a Paracas funerary bundle at the Museo de Arqueología, Perú, 1937 (Archivo INC/MNAAHP, Inv. AT-622 PAR/101).

Julio C. Tello, the father of Peruvian archeology. Graduation portrait from Harvard University, EEUU, n/d, (Archivo INC/MNAAHP-UA).

The Wari Kayán Cementery.

The Wari Kayán Cementery.

Wari Kayán cemetery and funerary bundles representation.

The Wari Kayán Cemetery and Its discoverer

In 1927, Peruvian archaeologist Julio César Tello discovered two large cemeteries on a rocky promontory known as Wari Kayán, on the arid Paracas peninsula, around 250 kilometers south of Lima. The sites contained hundreds of funerary bundles buried 1–5 meters below ground. As Tello had identified a different tradition—which he named Paracas Cavernas—in the same place just before the funerary bundles were discovered, the archeologist concluded that these new discoveries represented a later stage of the same culture. He called it “Paracas Necrópolis” because the burial ground consisted of many underground chambers that had been built within the dwellings of an ancient settlement, suggesting a sort of “city of the dead” (necro, dead; polis, city).

In all, Tello unearthed 429 funerary bundles. Between 1930 and 1960, a hundred of these bundles were opened and meticulously inventoried, bringing to light a hidden treasure trove of textiles unparalleled on earth that includes hundreds of woven and embroidered cloths (shrouds, garments and other items), as well as a considerable number of grave goods made of ceramic, precious metal, stone, feathers, and other organic materials.