LIMA (AP) — Few imagine that inside a mansion in Peru’s capital, on a bustling street next to a police station, a building where a massacre took place and a costume shop, there is a hospital that included a convent and a cemetery. that could contain the mummies of the last Incas.
“The people who did not survive the treatment were buried here,” Héctor Walde, chief archaeologist for the Lima municipality, told The Associated Press, standing near several bones in the courtyard of the Hospital Real de San Andrés, designed in the shape of a cross and whose first constructions have almost half a millennium.
Two years ago, archaeologists began to rediscover the one-hectare complex that had a space for the mentally ill and where the first doctors of the 16th century were trained.
The municipality seeks to restore key areas of the Peruvian capital so that residents know its history.
In recent archaeological work, experts have been aware of the eventual discovery of the remains of at least three rulers of the Inca Empire -Pachacutec, Huayna Capac and Tupac Yupanqui- who, according to reliable historical documents, could be buried under the complex.
Walde affirmed that in the last 200 years there have been several and unsuccessful attempts to find these remains.
According to 16th century chroniclers, the mummies were sent from Cusco, the capital of the Inca Empire, to Lima to be observed by Viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza.
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.
Experts have discovered among the 50 male bones found at the time that several had died of syphilis and due to deformities in the skull bones. Archaeologists have found a cross, possibly made of copper, that one of the deceased had around his neck.
Walde indicated that the 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 ritual and religiosity in Lima was very strong,” he recalled.
Over time, the architectural complex ceased to be a hospital and cemetery to become a hospice for abandoned children. It later 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 immense land, spaces were made independent to be used as Chinese restaurants, various shops and multi-family buildings. In one of them, 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.
“On the whole block there are a lot of businesses… I didn’t know there was a cemetery inside,” said Eulalia Sánchez, a candy vendor who was walking near the mansion.