The discovery has been published in the journal PNAS.
A detailed study of the mummified parrots showed that they had been transported over 500km: from their habitat in eastern Amazonia to the desert through the mountains. The parrots were caught as adults and kept in cramped cages attached to the backs of pack animals during the journey. The parrots were fed corn and regularly plucked mercilessly to sell their brightly coloured feathers.
Brightly coloured feathers were highly prized in pre-Columbian times throughout South America. The wealthy kept them in special cases, and they were sure to be placed in the owner's grave in the event of his death.
It is a mystery why birds of such value were mummified in such large numbers. Moreover, the mummification was carried out with special care. Archaeologists have studied a total of 27 bird mummies of six different species. Many of the bird mummies date from the period between 1100 and 1450 AD, between the end of the Tiwanaku Empire and the emergence of the Inca Empire. This was a time of war and trade.
Photo: from open sources / nplus1