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Peru's Lady of Cao mummy died during childbirth

A recent study suggests that the Lady of Cao, a spectacularly well-preserved mummy found in northern Peru in 2006, died due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth. The warrior woman and leader, whose 1,600-year-old remains are now housed at El Brujo Archaeological Complex in La Libertad, is said to have suffered from eclampsia, a condition that causes seizures during pregnancy.

senora-cao-peruAccording to Jordi Esteban Farre, a Spanish forensic doctor conducting research on the mummy, the evidence suggests that her death was caused by intense seizures.

Esteban Farre explained that the position in which the mummy was found — with her wrists in perfect condition, even though her arms were oddly positioned — has a pathological significance suggesting death by convulsion.

Though he recognizes that it is difficult to test, Esteban Farre cites extensive evidence supporting his hypothesis. Eclampsia causes not only seizures, but also respiratory and circulatory problems.

So, the Lady of Cao was pregnant — probably in her third trimester, judging by the stretch marks on her abdomen — and died during complications at birth. It is unclear whether she successfully gave birth or whether the complications caused a miscarriage or stillbirth. Esteban Farre suggests that she probably died approximately 48 hours after the onset of labor, since the pelvic bone is fully open, as it is after a recent birth.

Archaeological director of the El Brujo complex, Régulo Franco, expressed support for continuing the investigation to ascertain more details surrounding the Lady of Cao’s death. He added that full results of the study would be published soon.

Source: Living in Peru [February 15, 2011]


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