On Saturday, February 25, Peruvian police in the southern city of Puno on Lake Titicaca approached three young men drinking near a viewpoint. One was carrying an insulated food delivery backpack, the type that has become commonplace on city streets. But when officials looked inside, they found mummified remains dating back centuries.
Peru’s Ministry of Culture said in a statement that the remains are likely from the Eastern region of Puno and 600 to 800 years old, therefore belonging to a person who lived during the rise of the Inca civilization, centuries before the Spanish invasion.
While mummies are often discovered untouched for hundreds or thousands of years, these remains had allegedly been inside a home for almost three decades, Peruvian officials said. The origin of the remains has not been reported.
The man with the backpack was identified as 26-year-old former delivery worker Julio César Bermejo. In an interview with AFP, Bermejo says he cared for the remains and refers to them as his “spiritual girlfriend” who reportedly slept in his bedroom. In a video interview with local news outlet Puno TV, Bermejo said that his father had brought the remains into their home almost 30 years ago. Bermejo also stated that he had named the mummified individual “Juanita.”
A culture ministry official, however, said the remains actually belonged to a man approximately 45 years of age.
“It’s not a Juanita, it’s a Juan,” they told AFP.
Now, Peru’s government has ordered custody of the remains, since they constitute cultural heritage. The national Ministry of Culture has not responded to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment.
Berejo has been detained as authorities investigate his case. In Peru, illegally holding a cultural asset is punishable with two to five-year jail sentences.