Geneticists from the National Museum of Natural History in Chile managed to decipher DNA and to scann a few of the most ancient mummies on Earth, made by the tribe Chinchorro.
The mummies were made by representatives of the Chinchorro culture, wich occurred about 10,000 years ago on the Pacific coast of South America at the edge of the Atacama Desert.
Chinchorro lived in small villages and led quite simple lifestyle. They were among the first on the planet, that mastered the technique of mummification.
The study of mummies was led by the team of Veronica Silva from the National Museum of Natural History of Chile. She and her colleagues used modern medical devices and succeeded to scann the mummies. The team conducted a DNA analysis.
For the purposes of the study the researchers took 15 mummies of children, infants and unborn children, dated about 5400 B.C., that were stored in the vault of the museum. The artifacts are at least 2,000 years older than the Egyptian mummies.
The study shows that the Chinchorro tribe had precise knowledge of human anatomy. Initially they removed the skin, the internal organs and the eyes. Then, using wood, plants and clay the recovered the body on the skeletons and reinstalled the skin by adding eyes and hair. Then a mask was placed on the face. The result is something between a man and a statue – figures, frighteningly realistic even after thousands of years.
“Mummification was intimate process”, says Silva. Tha family had to make the mummies by itself. All of them were made at roughly the same principle, but each specimen demonstrated a unique „artistic and technological“ innovation. It was a process, evolving over time. Newer mummies are the most complex.
CT scans of the mummies revealed something unexpected: one of the mummies was not a mummy in the strict sense of the word. There were no bones in the body, so it could be called rather a statuette. The Scientists believe that this was a man who for some reason has not been able to be mummified.
From 1903 onwards were found 180 mummies of Chinchorro. All of them were located outdoors near the beach. Apparently the ancient tribe has not constructed any pyramids or other sarcophagi of the mummies. In fact, besides the mummies, Chinchorro‘s culture has not left any other traces.