The body of one of the first people thought to have
been killed by gunfire in the Americas was found in a burial plot near
Lima in Peru. A skull bearing a gunshot hole was discovered amongst
the remains of seventy-two bodies in a suburb of the capital.
Archaeologists believed the bodies were those of ancient
Incas killed by Spanish conquistadors shortly after their invasion of Peru.
Forensics experts later used a powerful scanning microscope to discover
fragments of metal on the skull.
There may have been Incas and other native people killed
by Europeans before him, but this was the oldest known example so far.
Peruvian archaeologist Guillermo Cock, who led the excavations in Lima,
was quoted on the subject by the Washington Post newspaper. He said that
he and his team did not expect to find a gunshot murder victim. When they
saw the skull and witnessed the almost-round hole they suspected a much
more recent shooting.
The forensics experts who analysed the skull tried to
rule out all other possible causes for the hole, such as a rock from a
slingshot, a spear, or a sledgehammer. They thought it would be a
million-to-one chance that any traces of metal would be found on a
skull that old, but they tried nonetheless.
The skull was thought to have belonged to an Inca man
who was involved in the 1536 siege of Lima. This and other bodies seemed
to have been buried hastily in shallow graves instead of being wrapped
and placed in the ground in the traditional Inca way.
Some of the bodies also showed signs of terrible violence.
They had been hacked, torn, and impaled - injuries which looked as if they
had been caused by iron weapons - and several had injuries on their heads
and faces that looked as if they were caused by gunshots.
The nature of the injuries found on the bodies - made
with indigenous weapons such as stone axes and arrows - indicated that
the conquistadors would have had some kind of native support to help in
their conquest. The findings confirm that native support for the conquerors
was very important. The chronicles do not acknowledge the participation
of the natives though. They make out that a couple of dozen cavalrymen
singlehandedly defeated the Inca troops in Lima.