Case Study - Ancient Human Remains

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Oral Presentation by Vanessa


Chinchorro Mummies

The Chinchorro People:

  • The Chinchorro (small boat) were fishermen
  • They lived in the Atamaca desert of Southern Peru and Northen Chile, along the river
  • Culture is found dating from 7000-500BC
  • Diet of marine resources and vegetation, found through chemical restoration

Map of where the Chinchorro tribes lived
Map of where the Chinchorro tribes lived

The Mummies:

  • 282 mummies
  • Dated they started mummifcation in 5000BC
  • Reaching their peak at 3000BC
  • Found in the areas of the Chinchorro tribes, around the river
  • Shallow graves that had not been discovered till a long time later- school grounds
  • Covered in thick layer of mud then buried, few items found with them- fishing objects
  • Many discoveriers, Max Uhle

The Mummification Process:

Black Mummies:
Black Mummy
Black Mummy

  • 5000BC-2500BC
  • Statue like figures
  • Completely dismembered and reassembled, skin and bones only replaced, wooden inner frame, then the body was covered in stuffed with reeds, covered in clay and wraped in materials and sea lion skin
  • Fragile due to the unbaked clay they are covered in

Red Mummies:

  • 2500BC, plentiful area of Red Ochre
    Boy- Red Mummy
    Boy- Red Mummy
  • Head was completely removed to take out the brain, then reconnected together with woven rope, small incisions were made on legs, arms, and abdomen to remove the muslces and organs
  • Replaced with reeds, clay, sticks and llama fur; openings created were sown up with human hair
  • Burn marks on the body suggest glowing coal drying
  • Most distinctive new feature on mask, open mouth instead of a little hole

Nartural Mummies:
  • The hot climate helped preserve some human remains creating mummies

Why, The Reason's:

  • All Bodies are believed to have died from natural deaths; not murdered or sacrificed
  • Instead it is believed to be as a Religious custom to mummify them
  • Placed in shrines before burried with a group pf 4-6 "family" members
  • Discrimination was not found; age, sex and social staus of the individuals were not important to the tribes and were all treated the same
  • Gives the people a second chance in the after life
  • Open mouth on clay mask, for easy return to the body, and for talking to the Gods and for feeding
  • Also believed to be an Art- earliest art in the America's

Chinchorro Woman Mummy
Chinchorro Woman Mummy


At this present time efforts have been made to try and conserve the mummies as from being in the earth have begun to decompose slightly. Tests such as chemical restoration have helped deturmin the last meals of some mummies. Through the discoveries of these ancient human remains life in 5000BC has become clear in the areas of religion, rituals and the resources that were more common to this era.

These are some interesting videos of some peruvian mummies, (not chinchorro mummies) that were found higher North of Peru.
Peruvian Mummies Blue-Eyed mummies


Arriaza, B.T; Hapke, R.A and Standen, V.G.1998, Making the Dead Beautiful: Mummies as Art. Retrieved: March 2nd, 2009, from

'Archaeology' was one of the first sources I found on the Chinchorro mummies when I first started my asiiginment. Websites, such as museum websites had links to 'Archaeology' for further reading into the Chinchorro mummies. 'Archaeology' is a very realible source due to this being a website for a famous magazine dedicated to archaeology studies and finds. The other iniformation citied at the bottom of the page was helpful to find out more information on the mummies.

The information on this web page was very useful to my assignment as it helped clear some areas, such as mummification and the reasons why they mummifyed the dead, that was very confusing and difficult to understand in the other sources.

The website's information was last updated on the 16th of December 1998. This makes us aware that the article has not been updated recently, this can be presented as a problem as new theories and discoveries about the mummies could not be present in the article. Hense information that has been changed would not be found in this stated source.

The Chinchorro Mummies, 2005. Retrieved: March 2nd 2009, from

Hirst, K.K, Chinchorro (Chile), (n.d), Retrieved: March 12th 2009, from

Roach. J, 2001, Book Report: Mummies Reflect Urge to Extend Human Life. Retrived: March 17th 2009, from

This Book Report is a very reliable source, as it to comes from a very famous Magazine, National Geographic. Unlike the other magazine source, National Geographics is read by a wider range of people in different communities, and is not biased in how much a person already knows about a discovery, for example me starting this assignment with no real knowlegde of the Chinchorro mummies and their cultures.

There was limited information on this site and was of a broder understanding of mummification in ancient times. The information though gave me a better understanding about mummification and why it was practiced by the Chinchorro tribes. It also helped clear how natural mummies can form in different climates and due to different events.

This report is more up to date than most of the other sources which makes the information more realiable than most.

Aufderheide, A.C, Munoz, I and Arriaza, B, 1993, Seven Chinchorro Mummies and the Prehistory of Northern Chile. Retrived:March 15th 2009, from


Chinchorro (women) Mummy-

Chinchorro (Black) Mummy-

Chinchorro (Boy) Red Mummy-

Map- magazine/chinchorro.htm