Francisco Pizarro, Wrong Body in Coffin and Forensic Anthropology

Francisco Pizarro was Spanish conqueror who conquered Peru. Peru then was ruled by Inca people, with Atahualpa as their king. Incan empire was very rich and Pizarro wanted to conquer it for Spain.


He failed in his earlier attempts, but finally in the Battle of Cajamarca, he defeated Incas and captured Atahualpa. To release their King Incas were forced to pay ransom. Ransom was to fill entire room with gold, which they paid. But Pizarro had no intentions of honouring his commitment; he took gold and killed Atahualpa.

Killing of Atahualpa displeased King Charles of Spain.

“We have been displeased by the death of Atahualpa, since he was a monarch, and particularly as it was done in the name of justice.”

  • King Charles of Spain in letter to Pizzaro.


Pizarro conquered Peru and founded city of Lima. But this success of Pizarro also created enemies. Pizarro and his brothers got into dispute with Almagro. Pizarro brothers and Almagro fought with each other in Battle of Las Salinas in 1538. Almagro was defeated and was executed by Pizarro brothers and his property was seized. All this resulted in Almagro’s son Diego Almagro II becoming bankrupt.


Diego decided to take revenge. In 1541 he entered palace of Pizarro and attacked him, first they disabled Pizarro by cutting his throat and then he was stabbed number of times till he died.

Head and body of Pizarro were separated and kept separate boxes and these boxes were hidden in a cathedral. Historical records state that the body was moved to some other place. Sometime in 1891 a body claimed to be that of Pizzaro was kept in glass coffin in cathedral. But there were other skeletons which people claimed were of Pizzaro. Finally American forensic anthropologist William Maples was called to find out which skeleton was authentic. He was given three boxes one box had skull and other two boxes had bones. On examination it was found that skull in one box and skeleton in one of the two other boxes belonged to same person, and it bore marks of stabbing, it showed 14 cut marks on vertebral column, arms and head. The cuts in skull and skeleton matched with description of attack in historical records. It was confirmed that body in glass coffin did not belong to Pizzaro as it did not bear any marks of stabbing.


Finally right body was put in glass coffin, which today can be seen in the cathedral.






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