In Chile, around fifteen of the oldest mummies ever found have been analyzed in order to unlock their secrets. But what have the scientists found?
These mummies were made by the Chinchorro people who lived from -10,000 to -3000 on the coast of the Atacama Desert, located today in northern Chile. These hunters and fishermen were past masters in the art of mummifying their dead, and were among the first to do so. The mummies that have been analyzed were made 7400 years ago, two millennia before the Egyptian mummies!
Fifteen of these mummies were scanned by the CT scan process at the Los Condes clinic in Santiago. The facility’s head of radiology, interviewed by AFP, said the process allowed for accurate x-rays « thousands of images of less than a millimeter ».
“The next step is to dissect these bodies virtually, without touching them, to make sure we can keep them for another 500,000 years,” continues the person concerned.
Thus, it was a question of reconstructing the morphology of the Chinchorro people by means of computer-generated images. The researchers then based themselves on the mummies, to which they virtually added muscles, a chin and a nose. But that’s not all since the experiment also aimed to better understand the complex way in which these mummies were made. It turns out that the Chinchorro were very knowledgeable about human anatomy, because the process of mummification is nothing short of amazing.
The Chinchorro removed the skin and then the muscles of the dead in order to obtain only a skeleton. Starting from the latter, they reconstituted the shape of the body of the deceased with wood and vegetable fiber, all coated with clay, before replacing the authentic skin.
“It was the family (of the deceased) themselves who made the mummy. It has no bone structure and it is therefore a figurine which could be a representation of an individual who could not be mummified”, explains Veronica Silva, head of the anthropology department at the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago.
After these stunning revelations, others may follow in the future as the research work continues. To be continued !
Here is a documentary about the Chinchorro people (Spanish with English subtitles):
Sources: Futura Sciences – Sciences and Future