In More to Explore the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information. Special thanks to the Research Division.
At Puruchuco-Huaquerones, an Inca cemetery outside Lima, Peru, a mummy excavation is disturbing Inca spirits—at least according to local villagers. Just over 1,200 families dwell in Tupac Amaru, a shantytown alongside the site, and some blame archaeologists for the recent misfortune that has befallen the town, including the death of a young schoolboy. Digging up these spirits of the past will only harm the living, they argue. Though the chief archaeologist at the site, Guillermo "Willy" Cock, discounts these rumors (he thinks the deceased boy died of tuberculosis), some villagers remain unconvinced.
Willy himself had a fierce cough for months after he began handling the mummies. And when National Geographic photographer Ira Block arrived back home in New York City after completing his assignment for the story, he too had a bacterial cough, which he treated with prescribed medication. Can this be a case of the notorious curse of the mummy—or just bad sanitation?
People have been saying for ages that angry spirits arise from such excavations. The most famous example is the official opening of King Tut's tomb in 1923, after which the financier of the project, as well as some others associated with the discovery, died prematurely. But archaeologists excavating the Inca site in Peru believe the amount of water (60,000 gallons/260,000 liters) and waste dumped by villagers each day causes rampant bacteria to fester in the ground.
Willy isn't spooked. "Not one of us is going to die because of these excavations. We may die because we don't use a mask and have contact with contaminated material." (The team members do use masks when they inspect the mummy bundles in the lab.) "My cough was from the bacteria associated with the mummy bundles and the soil at the site, which is highly contaminated. There's no sewage system in the town, so you can imagine what's in the soil."
Whether it's a poor sewage system or angry spirits affecting those in Tupac Amaru, dedicated archaeologists will continue to seek answers to the extraordinary Inca past.
Here's the link, if you care to read.
http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm ... index.html
I personally don't think it's right to desecrete a burial site; but whatever.