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1,000 Ancient Tombs, Unique Remains Found in Colombia
José Orozco in Caracas, Venezuela
for National Geographic News
Builders clearing land for a housing project in Colombia have uncovered an ancient burial site containing nearly a thousand tombs linked to two little-known civilizations.
The site covers some 12 acres (5 hectares) in the impoverished Usme district in southeast Bogotá and includes one set of remains that some researchers believe could be a victim of human sacrifice.
The possible victim is a young woman who seems to have been buried alive, said Ana Maria Groot, one of the lead anthropologists from the National University of Colombia working at the site.
"Her mouth is open as if in terror, and her hands seem contracted as if she had tried grabbing hold of something," Groot said.
Another tomb contains the remains of a man with a curved tibia, or shinbone, possible evidence that the man was a shaman, she added.
Spanish observers in the 1500s wrote of indigenous shamans spending long periods in caves with no exposure to sunlight. A lack of sunlight would produce a shortage of vitamin D, causing curving of the bones, explained Groot's colleague, Virgilio Becerra.