The Misplaced Conquistador-Francisco Pizarro

A sculpture of Pizarro The first of Maples famous historical cases came in the form of the misplaced remains of the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro. Pizarro died as he lived, in a bloody mess. He traveled to Peru after spending time working for the conquistador, Balboa, to conquer lands for himself and in 1532 he captured the Inca Atahualpa, and his capture resulted in the demand by Pizarro for a vast ransom. Pizarro demanded room 17 feet wide and 21 feet long be filled with gold, and in that room a red mark placed on the wall nine feet from the floor to which it was to be filled. In addition two slightly smaller rooms were to be filled with silk. Now at the command of the Inca Atahualpa the rooms were filled to the satisfaction of Pizarro, but the promise of Pizarro was not kept on rather flimsy charges. Atahualpa was charged, tried, convicted, and executed all in the same day, and of course this was a vast amount of wealth that came to Pizarro as a result of this conquest.

Later on Pizarro's partner in the Peruvian conquests, Almagro, asserted that Cuzco, another rich city of the Inca, fell within his domain, Pizarro rejected and resisted his request which resulted in a falling out between the two warriors. A war resulted and although Almagro was promised his life, in a typical Pizarro performance, he was killed. Pizarro incidentally founded the city Lima. Pizarro called it the city of Kings and it was in this city that he met his death in 1541 as a result of the antagonism of the surviving Almagristos, that is the followers of Almagro.

A demonstration of one of the entry wounds Pizarro was having a luncheon with some of his followers there when the Almagristos came the door, which happened to be left open, and Pizarro answered, with his cape over his arm as his sole shield and his sword in his other arm, which he addressed before he went out as-"My good friend, you've stood beside me so long, and now one more time" -and at the door he was set upon by perhaps as many as 20, and a sword fight ensued and it is said that one of the persons who was after his life became impaled on Pizarro's sword and one of the other parties pushed this one on the sword onto the sword deeper, this meant Pizarro could not extricate it. And it was easier to finish him off without the use of his sword. It's also said that someone hit him on the head with a water crock to help dispatch him. In this position, he was driven to the floor and repeatedly stabbed and gored by the assailants, and his head was thrown back and much in the manner of bullfighting. Pizarro's remains were buried temporarily in the courtyard of the cathedral at Lima, where they remained for some brief period of time, after which the records show they were removed and placed in a ditch in the church. An order of 1661, at the time they were searching for the remains of St. Toribio, revealed that the head of Pizarro had been placed in a lead box and the remains placed in another box, and the two boxes, so filled, were placed in a ditch in the cathedral at Lima.

We don't know much of the early history of Pizarro's remains, but over the years they apparently they lost track of which body was Pizarro's. And when they decided to celebrate the 1892 Anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America, they wanted the remains of Pizarro placed on exhibition. They asked church officials which body was Pizarro's, and they said they had no doubt it was the one in the nice coffin at the cathedral. Their medical examiners found nothing to refute the claim that the body in the coffin was that of Pizarro, so it was placed on display in a glass case in the cathedral where throngs of people came to visit it.

Maples examining Pizarro's remains In 1977 in the crypt under the main alter of the cathedral, very near where the mummy of the alleged Pizarro remains were found, workmen, opened a niche that had been walled over in the main wall of the cathedral. And in this niche, there were shelves and on one shelf was a lead box with an inscription on the top, and next to it were the remains of a wooden box that had come apart with various bones in it. One of the workmen polished the lead box to see if it was silver, and it was not, so it remained and they reported their find and Dr. Hugo Ludena, an archeologist. An historian with the National Institute of Culture in Lima, was called to the scene and he called in investigators from his country and from the United States to work on discovering just whose remains they were. There was an inscription in the lead box which read, "Here is the head of Don Francisco Pizarro Demarkes, Don Francisco Pizarro who discovered Peru and presented it to the crown of Castile." So immediately there was questioning as to whether the body displayed in the glass case was indeed that of Pizarro. The skull of Pizarro Dr. Maples went down as part of the team of experts from the United States to determine the identity of the newly discovered remains. Maples examined the remains in the glass case and quickly determined that they could not be that of Pizarro because they bore no sword wounds on any of the bones. The skeleton was also much too frail to have been that of the famous conquistador. But the newly found bones were quickly determined to be that of Pizarro. Maples showed that the bones found buried in the crypt bore numerous stab wounds, characteristic with someone who died in the manner of Pizarro. Maples also showed that based on drawings and paintings of Pizarro, the skull found in the lead box matched up neatly with the facial structure of Pizarro. While this was the oldest homicide case Maples ever worked on it was not the most perplexing one of his career.