Seven Chinchorro mummies and the prehistory of northern Chile

Authors

  • Arthur C. Aufderheide,

    1. Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota 55812
    2. Instituto de Antropología y Arqueología, Arica, Chile
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  • Ivan Muñoz,

    1. Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota 55812
    2. Instituto de Antropología y Arqueología, Arica, Chile
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  • Bernardo Arriaza

    1. Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota 55812
    2. Instituto de Antropología y Arqueología, Arica, Chile
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Abstract

The mummification methods of an ancient maritime population on the northern coast of Chile are reviewed and the findings in an additional seven individuals are reported. Members of this cultural group, Chinchorro, practiced a selective, elaborate form of artificial mummification which persisted more than 4,000 years. Its complexity diminished with time, gradually disappearing after 2,000 B. C. One of the seven individuals herein reported is a rather poorly but spontaneously (“naturally”) preserved body that may represent the oldest mummy reported to date–about 9,000 years old. Chemical reconstruction of their diet demonstrates that the principal component was derived from marine resources with only minor supplementation from terrestrial hunting as well as food gathering from river mouth vegetal sources, confirming the marine dependence of their adaptational strategy. © 1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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