Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Taphophile Tragics


Chauchilla cemetery is located 30 km south of the Peruvian town of Nazca and is an interesting side trip when visiting the Nazca Lines.

For many years the cemetery was looted by treasure hunters, who destroyed the place completely, taking away all the treasures the mummies kept in their tombs for centuries. Grave robbers just left behind the corpses, which can be seen today all over the ground. In addition to skulls and bones, visitors also can see several tombs centuries’ old, as well as long human hairs, ceramic fragments and others remains scattered on the dessert surface. It is the only archaeological site in Peru, in which ancient mummies are seen in their original graves, along with ancient artifacts, dating back to 1000 AD.


The cemetery was discovered in the 1920s, but had not been used since the 9th century AD. The cemetery includes many important burials over a period of 600 to 700 years. The start of the interments was in about 200 AD. It is important as a source of archaeology to Nazca culture. The cemetery has been extensively plundered by huaqueros who have left human bones and pottery scattered around the area. Similar local cemeteries have been damaged to a greater extent. The site has been protected by Peruvian law since 1997 and tourists pay to take the two hour tour of this ancient necropolis. The site is by the Poroma riverbed and can be accessed off a dirt track from the Panamerican Highway. In 1997, the majority of the scattered bones and plundered pottery were restored to the tombs.


The bodies are so remarkably preserved due mainly to the dry climate in the Peruvian Desert but the funeral rites were also a contributing factor. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with a resin and kept in purposely built tombs made from mud bricks. The resin is thought to have kept out insects and slowed bacteria trying to feed on the bodies.

The nearby site of Estaquería may provide clues to the remarkable preservation of the numerous bodies in these cemeteries. At that site, Archeologists found wooden pillars initially thought to have been used for astronomical sightings. However, it is now believed that the posts were used to dry bodies in a mummification process. This may account for the high degree of preservation seen in thousand-year-old bodies which still have hair and the remains of soft tissue, such as skin.


For more taphophilia please visit Julie's Taphophile Tragics.

12 comments:

Dina said...

Wow. They have made it into a fascinating place to visit, despite the grave robbing.

Peter said...

Wow also, fairly confronting. Beaut shots.

Jim said...

Spooky shots.

Gemma Wiseman said...

O wow! This is one place I would so love to see! I am amazed that there seems to be no limited access to such an historical area! It could so easily be destroyed more with careless visitors! Or perhaps it doesn't attract too many people anyway to worry about that!

NixBlog said...

What an interesting post! I didn't know about this place (it seems to be overshadowed by the more famous Nazca plain), and I would also like to visit it. Quite amazing history and artifacts...

Mark said...

Ann how lucky are you to have visited this place. great post.

Sondra said...

The Nazca lines and Myths fascinate me and this burial ground does too...this is awesome!
Your photos are wonderful!

Oakland Daily Photo said...

I'm relieved to hear the scattered bones were finally gathered up and placed in a proper grave.

PerthDailyPhoto said...

Fascinating post Ann.

tapirgal said...

A really fascinating post, if a bit grisly. What an interesting view into the past. Love the simple artistry of the old stones., too.

Julie said...

I apologise for being latter getting around to everyone this week. But hey-ho ...

I agree with many of the others, Ann: fantastic shots. But also, a fantastic post re both image and text.

What an eerie place! I know you travel to out-of-the-way places, but this really takes the cake. What a terrific set of memories to have. Very gristley (?) and sad, in some ways. Sad that there is no money to preserve the history and the culture is some more permanent way. One can only assume that this too, will be lost to us within a couple of hundred years.

Thanks for adding such variety to Taphophile Tragics this week. More please ...

Rae Walter said...

That is amazing Ann. Great post. Email me on raewalter@hotmail.com if you are free for coffee tomorrow morning. Not sure if my email got through. Best wishes, Rae