Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of 42 humans in a cemetery next to a Peruvian hospital that dates back to the 16th century, when the country first became part of the Spanish empire.
The skeletons were found in the courtyard of Hospital Real de San Andres, a former hospital in the centre of Lima, the capital of Peru.
Built in 1552 specifically for Spanish patients, the historic building is considered to be the oldest hospital in both Peru and South America.
The site, thought to be where the first doctors of the 16th century were trained, had a church for the dying to be close to God and even a space for the mentally ill.
The bodies have remained undiscovered for centuries, despite being buried only around 12 inches (30cm) beneath the ground.
Although not thought to be among the bodies found, experts think the site also hides the remains of the mummies of the last Incas, the tribe that once ruled the Andean region of South America before the Spanish conquest.
In addition, experts have found an underground crypt and fragments of pre-Hispanic ceramics, likely from before the construction of the hospital, possibly dating to the time of the Incas.
Peruvian archaeologists have unearthed 42 human remains in a cemetery next to a hospital that dates back to the 16th century.
Archaeologists found the human remains, dating back to colonial times, in the former Hospital Real de San Andres in the first city cemetery in Lima, Peru.
Patients who arrived at the hospital were placed in beds located in the corridors and that from their bed they could listen to mass, it’s thought.
Most of the newly-found bones belonged to males, several of whom had died of syphilis and from deformities in the skull, according to the experts.
Archaeologists have found a cross, possibly made of copper, that one of the deceased had around his neck.
Historically, patients who arrived at the hospital were placed in beds located in the corridors and that from their bed they could listen to mass.
‘The people who did not survive the treatment were buried here,’ Héctor Walde, chief archaeologist for the Lima municipality, told the Associated Press.
‘The ritual and religiosity in Lima was very strong.’
Hospital Real de San Andrés was founded by Viceroy Andres Hurtado de Wildoso, a Spanish military officer.
The main structure of the hospital was designed in the shape of a cross, with an alter in the centre.
Other adjacent structures included offices, a pharmacy, a psychiatric ward, as well as a garden and the cemetery.
Excavations at the location began 20 years ago and uncovered evidence of the cemetery, as well as the remains of a 19th-century fountain, an early colonial trash pit and a vaulted structure.
But the 42 bodies have been unearthed only after several months of recent excavations at the site of downtown Lima.
Two years ago, archaeologists began to rediscover the one-hectare complex, which is on a bustling street near a police station and a costume shop.
By the 1870s, the architectural complex ceased to be a hospital and cemetery, and later became a hospice for abandoned children.
It also became a public school where the children’s playground was located just above the cemetery. The last major earthquake in 2007 put the complex out of use.
In the last century, a police station was built on part of the land, and other spaces were used as Chinese restaurants and various shops.
In one of the buildings, in 1991, 15 Peruvians were killed by a clandestine group of soldiers, which led to a 25-year prison sentence against former President Alberto Fujimori.
After being seen by Hurtado, the mummies were taken to the hospital and later placed underground. It is not known if they have stood the test of time, or where they are located.
‘Although it is not the initial objective of this project, we also do not deny the interest of being able to find the royal mummies during the excavation process,’ said Walde.
Lima’s municipality is working to restore key areas of the Peruvian capital so that residents know its history.