Lady of Cao
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) Lady of Cao
Age mid twenties
Sex female
Status Moche Priestess-Queen
Height unknown
Culture pre-Incan
Date(s) AD 100 to 700
Site Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Wizard)
Current Location
Location Peru
Catalog #

In 2006 a female mummy was found in Huaca El Brujo (Sacred place of the Witch), an archaeological site 45km north of Trujillo in the La Libetad region of Peru. Known as the Lady of Cao she is also known as the tattooed mummy. She died in her mid twenties, about 1,600 years ago. The Lady of Cao was probably a priestess-Queen of the Moche society. In the Moche society individuals would sacrifice themselves and a silver goblet was used to collect their blood. The blood was consumed by the priestess-queen with the idea that "life feeds on life."


In the Moche society the dead were usually left to naturally decay, no embalming took place for preservation. However, The Lady of Cao was shown to be a rare instance of preservation. Her body was coated in cinnabar, a mineral associated with blood.


She was wrapped in cotton and encased in a type of clay. The dry, desert climate of Moche dried her body.The mummy was wrapped in a large cotton bundle with an embroidered face, covered with a cane mat, and resting on a pillow. As the cotton strips were removed and recorded, hundreds of objects were discovered within the wrapping. Glass beads and necklaces, along with nose ornaments, and earrings of gold, gilded copper, and silver, all were finely worked. The face of the Lady was covered with a golden bowl.


The Lady of Cao died in her mid to late twenties. Recent studies show she died due to complications during childbirth. It was found she probably suffered from eclampysia. It is unclear if the child was successfully born or if it was a still birth. Stretched ligaments and pelvic muscles suggest she died approximately 48 hours after the onset of labour.


Tattoos of snakes and spiders were found on her body. It is suggested that these were the symbols of fertility and power. Found along side her was jewelry, weapons, gems, weaving materials, and needles. She was found beside another young women who was sacrificed via strangulation with a hemp rope. These items suggest she was a ruler or a warrior princess.

External Links


Finn, E. (2015). Peru's Lady of Cao mummy died during childbirth. Retrieved from Moose, M.(2014). Tomb of the Tattooed Sorceress Queen, The Lady of Cao, Retrieved from Willford,J.N.(2006). Moche mummy likely a ruler or warrior princess. Retrieved from Williams,A.R.(2006).Mystery of the Tattooed Mummy.National Geographic. Retrieved from

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