27 May 2014, 16:32

Dead Chinchorro society: 7,000 year-old mummy spotted by accident in Peru

Dead Chinchorro society: 7,000 year-old mummy spotted by accident in Peru

A group of students famously unearthed a 7,000-year-old mummy belonging to the great Inca predecessor - Chinchorro culture - during a trip to northern Chile, local media reported Monday. The ground-breaking find was made purely by accident on Saturday as the local students were visiting the Morro de Arica site as part of their excavation workshop they had previously enrolled for.

As the group were deeply engaged in their work, one of students stumbled upon a strange shape right under dog droppings.

Experts point to the fact that the ancient archeological artifacts have been forced toward the surface in the footsteps of the powerful 8.2 earthquake that shook the region on April 1.

Trip organizer Hans Neira said the discovery of the mummy, part of the glorious Chinchorro culture, showed that the area should be declared a protected zone.

To the Chinchorro, deliberate preservation of their dead by means of mummification appears to have been a deeply religious act—a study in devotion. They likely believed that mummies were the bridge between the world of the living and the supernatural realm of the dead. What makes the Chinchorro so remarkable is the elaborate way in which they prepared their loved ones for the hereafter.

"Chinchorro mummies are one of the wonders of Andean archaeology and of mortuary studies anywhere in the world," exclaims Karen Wise of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, who is excavating a cemetery at Ilo, Peru.

What is immediately rendered alive in your memory as you hear the word "mummy"? Rightly enough, this is ancient Egypt. But still what makes it all different from the Chinchorro culture is the fact that ancient Egypt saw exclusively kings and queens worth of mummification, unlike in Peru. Surprisingly enough, the Chinchorro community accorded everyone, regardless of age or status, this sacred rite, deeply honoring the dead and death as such.

The Arica-Camarones area represents the bedrock of the Chinchorro culture, then the cemetery at El Morro is its mother lode: no other site in the region has yielded a larger or better preserved collection of artificial mummies so far. And, noteworthy, the practice came along by far earlier than that of the ancient Incas -  6,000 years before, to be exact.

Chinchorro culture culminating from 7020 BC to 1500 BC consists of fishermen villages scattered along the coast of Atacama desert, from Ilo in Peru in the north to Antofagasta in the south.

More on the subject:

Archeologists scan wrapped mummies to study past 


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