What if you got so bored with life that you started mummifying the dead just to keep it all together? Archaeologists say that’s what happened around the borders between Peru and Chile and it is a dry and desolate place. This is the culture of the Chinchorro people.It is said that they thrived between 8000-10,000 BC.The oldest mummy in the world was found here and is over 4000 years older than the oldest found in Egypt. That’s pretty old.They lived in a dry and nearly inhospitable area that depended on snowfall in the Andes to create rivers ,which also provided them with fish to consume.90% of their diet was seafood from the Pacific and rivers flowing down the Andes.
One of the most fascinating things about this culture is their dedication to keeping the dead alive.They worshiped the dead by displaying them while covering their skin with clay and even making wigs for them to wear.Their hair consisted of complex and intricate braid patterns woven which would have distinguished them between being rich and elite, or as a slave and in the lower class. Many had masks made out of wood or clay as well.They would replace the organs of the bodies with grass and reeds.Mummifying or preserving the dead became an obsession with the Chinchorro people.Mummified fetuses have been found.Everything that has been found in relation to these people suggest that they were an ancestor cult.They had tattoos. These people were so bored that they probably had conversations with the dead and often looked to them for guidance during hard times and religious rituals.
What is intriguing is that the Chinchorro had a collective egalitarian society so long ago that is older than many civilizations in Europe. There is confirmed dating to the late Pleistocene and early Holocene epochs (ca. 11,000–9000 BC)! Whats funny to me is that when doing a search for the “oldest civilization”,Sumeria pops up at 5000 BC.The deserts of Northern Chile had to be a terrible place to raise a family and living in these conditions could have fatigued them mentally, and physically to where they had to get into the hobby of mummification, out of sheer boredom.
Arriaza,B. (2008).Handbook of South American Archaeology. Retrieved fromhttp://www.academia.edu/4538873/Chinchorro_Culture_Pioneers_of_the_Coast_of_the_Atacama_Desert