The remains of 16 Chinese laborers were discovered by archaeologists exploring Peru’s Bellavista pyramid.
The bodies are thought to be those of indentured servants that were part of a mass wave of immigrants who traveled to the Latin American country in the late mid 1800s and early 1900s, lead archaeologist Roxana Gomez said Thursday, adding that the workers were most likely worked at a nearby cotton plantation.
Archaeologists were digging near the top of an adobe pyramid used by the ancient Ichma people when the remains were discovered.
According to historian Justina Hwang, Chinese immigrants who left their country in search of work, were subject to severe racism and consequently harsh living conditions, mistreatment, and poverty.
The first 11 bodies found at the Bellavista pyramid in Lima were shrouded in cloth before being placed in the ground, while the last five were dressed in blue-green jackets and were buried in wooden coffins, Gomez said.
“In one Chinese coffin, an opium pipe and a small ceramic vessel were included in the funerary ensemble,” said Gomez.
The influx of Asian workers labored on cotton and sugarcane plantations, built railroads and worked in mines from 1849-1879.
Peru’s Culture Ministry explained laborers were often not permitted to bury their dead in Catholic cemeteries and would often lay their relatives to rest in ancient, sacred burial grounds.
Remains were previously found in Lima at other adobe pyramids known as “huacas.” Built by the Indigenous societies that once ruled much of Peru’s Pacific coast, huacas were used as administrative and religious centers where members of the elite were often buried with gold objects, ceramics or human sacrifices.
Gomez said the huacas had a sacred association that might have made them attractive places for burial by Chinese laborers.