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An archeological researcher examines artifacts recently found in Peru at Huaca de la Luna. (photo by Johnny Aurazo)

Archeologists in Peru have discovered the 1,500-year-old tomb of a Moche nobleman, which they say could shed further light on the pre-Inca civilization. Along with some things you might expect to find in an archeological dig — human remains, a copper scepter, gold earrings, brass instruments, and a mask — was a curious pair of metal feline paws with sharp claws.

Cerro Blanco and Huaca de la Luna (via Wikimedia Commons)

Researchers told the newspaper El Comercio that these might have been part of an animal skin costume. It would have been given as a prize honoring the winner of a ritualistic game, while the loser would have been sacrificed. The tomb was unearthed near Trujillo at Huaca de la Luna, a massive pyramid-temple where the bodies of 70 similarly doomed warriors have been found.

Like the ancient Egyptians, who liked to bury real cats, the Moches had a thing for felines. The culture, which flourished between the 1st and 7th centuries CE, revered Ocelots, Margays, Pampas, and Pumas as symbols of leadership and power, often interring objects inspired by them in the tombs of the elite. That of the ruler known as the Lord of Sipán, discovered in northern Peru, is filled with objects embellished with cat faces. These animals bore all the qualities a great warrior could hope for: stealth, class, and killer instincts — you know, kind of like Choupette.

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

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