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Women in Ancient Peru Were Rulers, but Sexism Kept People From Noticing, Historian Argues

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Tourists walks towards the pyramids of the Caral archaeological complex, in Supe-Peru on November 8, 2015. Ernesto Benavides/AFP/Getty Images

A historian has argued that women were leaders in ancient Peru and that researchers haven't claimed this in the past because they approached their studies with a sexist point of view.

After a decade of work, Maritza Villavicencio argued in her study titled "Mujer, poder y alimentacion en el antiguo Peru" or "Woman, power and food in ancient Peru" that women were actually monarchs, according to a report from Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Wednesday. 

"Women were invisible in history, and what my book does is propose restoring the memory of the real life of these women," she told AFP.

Researchers, however, had previously labeled certain women in the ancient Peru society as priestesses—people removed from society who didn't make economic and political decisions—in an attempt to lower their status. 

"There is a discriminatory interpretation by researchers regarding women in ancient Peru," Villavicencio said to AFP. 

She argued that centuries-old mummies of women were found in clothes worn by monarchs or with a lord's scepter and yet they were labeled as priestesses. 

"There is a biased view when it comes to women, a male-centric vision that puts men at the center of everything in Peru's history," Villavicencio said.

There have been a number of recent exciting discoveries in the study of ancient Peru. Last month, archaeologists uncovered the remains of children believed to have been human sacrifices, along with a hoard of treasures. Late last year, researchers were able, through 3-D imaging, to reconstruct the face of a noblewoman whose tomb—filled with riches and gold tools—was found just five years prior in the town of Huarmey, according to National Geographic

"When I first saw the reconstruction, I saw some of my indigenous friends from Huarmey in this face," Miłosz Giersz, an archaeologist who helped discover the tomb, told National Geographic. "Her genes are still in the place."

When the untouched, 1,200-year-old tomb was found—with the remains of 58 noblewomen, at least four of whom were queens—it was considered a massively important find. Researchers noticed that the women buried there were laid to rest with things typically reserved for men.

"The women were buried with finely engraved earpieces made of precious metals that once were believed to be used only by men," archaeologist Patrycja Przadk said in 2013.

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