Tuesday, 24 January 2012
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.