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The remains of an Inca warrior shot through the skull in combat with Spanish invaders was found among these mummies in Lima, Peru.

The remains of an Inca warrior shot through the skull in combat with Spanish invaders was found among these mummies in Lima, Peru.
Photo: AFP

John Noble Wilford, New York
June 21, 2007

ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Peru have uncovered the human skeleton of what they conclude is the earliest known gunshot victim in the New World.

Digging in an Inca cemetery in the suburbs of Lima, they came on well-preserved remains of an individual with holes less than an inch in diameter in the back and front of the skull.

Forensic scientists in Connecticut said the position of the round holes and some minuscule iron particles showed that the person was most likely shot and killed by a Spanish musket ball.

Ceramics and other artefacts in the 72 examined graves established the approximate time of the burials, archaeologists say. This indicated that these were casualties of combat between Inca warriors and Spanish invaders, who seized the Andean empire in 1532.

Spanish chronicles describe a pitched battle, a last stand of the Incas fought in the vicinity in 1536. Conquistadors were equipped with some of the first effective firearms, which had been developed recently in Europe, military historians say.

The National Geographic Society announced the gunshot victim's discovery by independent Peruvian archaeologists Guillermo Cock and Elena Goycochea, who have conducted research at the Puruchuco cemetery for years.

Mr Cock said by telephone that at least 35 of the excavated skeletons bore evidence of violent injuries: cheekbones crushed by heavy blows, broken hands and limbs, a smashed chest.

No similar evidence of a death by gunshot this early had been found elsewhere in the Americas, Mr Cock said.

The musket shot appeared to have entered the back of the man's skull, punching a piece of bone from outside to inside, and emerged through the face. "The individual may have been escaping from the Europeans," he said.

NEW YORK TIMES


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