SMITHSONIAN – BRIGIT KATZ
Thousands of years ago, indigenous groups living on the Pacific coast of Peru built towering adobe pyramids, which functioned as religious centers and tombs for elite members of society. Long after these groups ceased to exist, their adobe pyramids, or huacas, were used once again—not by native Peruvians, not by Spanish colonists, but by 19th-century Chinese workers.
As Reuters reports, archaeologists working in Lima recently found the remains of 16 Chinese laborers at the top of the pyramid of Bellavista, a pre-Inca site. The deceased had been buried in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and likely worked at a nearby cotton plantation.
It is not the first time that such a discovery has been made; archaeologists have unearthed the remains of Chinese workers at other adobe pyramids in Lima. These finds testify to the mass wave of migrants who traveled from China to South America in the latter half of the 19th century, reports Dorean K. Collins of NBC News. According to Milenio, a national newspaper in Mexico, some 80,000 to 100,000 people made the journey—often by force.
“Many were kidnapped or tricked into enduring a 120 day journey on boats referred to as infiernos flotantesor ‘floating hells,’” Collins writes.