National Geographic grantee Guillermo Cock led the team that uncovered the remains. "We thought it was a person killed recently, 5, 10, or 20 years ago," Cock told National Geographic. "We didn't expect the individual would have been killed by a bullet 500 years ago."
The skeleton is one of 72 buried at the site under what must have been chaotic conditions, without the usual Inca reverence for death. experts say. The bodies were not facing the right direction, and they had been tied up or hastily wrapped in a simple cloth and buried at shallow depth, without the usual Inca adornment. Many of the skeletons were also victims of terrible violence, showing signs of being hacked, torn, or impaled. "We were not expecting to find as many traumatic injuries as we have so far," said bio-archaeologist Melissa Murphy of Bryn Mawr College.
Analysis of a plug of bone recovered intact near the skull showed the man was killed with a firearm much less forceful than modern weaponry, and the projectile's concave imprint is highly suggestive of a musket ball. In addition, detailed microscope examination of the skull and plug showed fragments of iron, a metal commonly used in Spanish ammunition.
"This gave us positive evidence that this individual died during conquest and was killed by gunfire," said Guillermo Cock, leader of the expedition that uncovered the mass Inca grave where the gunshot victim was found. "We have traces of iron on the edges of the bullet entrance and we have exit damage in the face caused by the bullet leaving the head."