Chauchilla an old cemetery from the Nasca Culture, located 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of the city of Nazca in Peru. The graves are actually adobe tombs and some are open for us to see. The mummies are in the fetal position. This represented leaving earth in the same way that they had entered it. They were in “sacks” which were tied at the neck, exposing their heads and they faced east, looking for the sunrise each day. Around them were pots of food and drink for the afterlife. Some of them are believed to be priests or shamans as they had never cut their hair. Their bleached white skulls had 2 to 3 meters hair attached. The tombs would be reopened when a family member died and there was a separate tomb for each generation,

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 purpose-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.


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