They inhabited the Atacama Desert more than 7,000 years ago. They were a group of sea hunters and gatherers. And they created incredible technology that the world admires today. It’s about the culture that was mummified before the Egyptians. The Chinchorro culture.
Recognized by UNESCO
They treated their dead particularly carefully. They used skillful mummification techniques two thousand years before the Egyptians. UNESCO recently recognized this merit. They included the settlements and the artificial mummification of the Chinchorro culture on the World Heritage List. They represent the oldest known archaeological evidence of mummification.
The Chinchorro culture settled specifically between the ports of Ilo in Peru and Antofagasta in Chile. This area was incredibly rich in marine resources from the effects of the cold Humboldt Current. They used hooks made from cactus spikes and harpoon tips. This enabled them to make intensive use of marine resources. It is known that they could dive very deep.
It is believed that they met in bands or small groups of 30 to 50 people. What stands out most about this culture are its complex burial techniques. These reflect the enormous importance they attached to the cult of the dead and ancestors.
Tarapacá University in Chile explains how they carried out the process. They first removed the deceased’s organs and viscera through incisions. They replaced them with vegetables, feathers, pieces of leather or fleece. The scalp and facial skin were also extracted. They removed the brain and replaced it with ashes, earth, clay, and animal hair. Then the face was modeled. He was given a wig made of human hair and a piece of clothing made of plant tissue. Finally the body was covered with a layer of clay.
Part of your world
Initially, the jets only mummified newborns and children. It was later extended to all age groups. So far, 208 mummies have been examined. It has been found that embalming techniques vary over time. In fact, they were simplified in the later stages.
In the Chinchorro culture, there were black mummies covered in manganese oxide. Also red mummies, painted with iron oxide. Bandaged mummies too. All with wig, face mask and sticks to strengthen the body.
“The Chinchorro culture saw their mummies as part of the world of the living. So they left their eyes and mouth open. And they used plant fiber stretchers or skins to transport them. After a while they were buried collectively, ”they explain at the University of Tarapacá.
The culture that was mummified before the Egyptians had advanced embalming techniques. The desert and salt environment has managed to maintain 120 wells. Today they are in the collection of the Archaeological Museum of San Miguel de Azapa in Chile.