An excavation near this capital uncovered more than a hundred funerary bundles dating from the start of the 12th century, Bolivia's minister of Culture and Tourism said Thursday.
Wilma Alanoca described as "unique and unprecedented" the discovery of the underground cemetery in Viacha, a highland village 30km (19mi) east of La Paz.
"Archaeologists found more than a hundred funerary bundles containing human remains wrapped in cloth with baskets and ropes, accompanied by artifacts consisting of ceramic, metal, stone and wooden vessels," the ministry said in a statement.
The site has at least four crypts, of which two remain intact, accessed through a well.
"Judging by the balanced number of men, women and children among the bundles, we may speculate that the population would have been decimated by some epidemic, rather than a military confrontation," the ministry said.
After employees of state-owned ESMICAL S.A. came across the cemetery during mining operations, the ministry deployed a team of archaeologists to the site.
"Work is under way with the Viacha municipality and the mining company for the mitigation plan and one of the first measures that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism will adopt is to exclude this site from the mining-concession area in order to protect and preserve this archaeological heritage," Alanoca said.