Oldest Mummies in the World Are Turning into Black Slime

Oldest Mummies in the World Are Turning into Black Slime

(Read the article on one page)

The Chinchorro mummies of Chile, which have been preserved for at least 7,000 years, are turning into black slime due to rising humidity levels causing bacterial growth on the skin. More than one hundred mummies – the oldest in the entire world – are turning gelatinous as a result of the rapidly spreading bacteria. Chilean researchers are now seeking funds to preserve the deteriorating mummies before they are lost for good.

The Chinchorros were a people who inhabited the coast of the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and southern Peru between 7000 and 1500 B.C. The people of this culture relied on fishing, hunting and gathering for subsistence. Whilst the earliest known Chinchorro sites date to 7000 B.C., mummification, based on current evidence, dates to 5000 B.C. The Chinchorro mummies were first identified in 1917 by the German archaeologist, Max Uhle. Further excavations showed that such mummies were spread along the coast and concentrated between Arica and Camerones. It was in 1983, however, that the largest and best-preserved find of Chinchorro mummies was discovered. This discovery was made not by archaeologists, but by the Arica water company whilst laying a new pipeline near the foot of El Morro.

Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert

Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert (Reinhard Jahn Mannheim/ Wikimedia Commons )

Chinchorro mummies are one of the wonders of Andean archaeology and appear to reflect the spiritual beliefs of the ancient Chinchorro people, although the exact reason why they mummified their dead is unknown. Some scholars maintain that it was to preserve the remains of their loved ones for the afterlife, while another commonly accepted theory is that there was an ancestor cult of sorts, since there is evidence of both the bodies traveling with the groups and of being placed in positions of honour during major rituals, as well as a delay in the final burial itself.

Unlike the ancient Egyptians, who reserved mummification for royalty and the elite, the Chinchorro community accorded everyone, regardless of age or status, this sacred rite. The decision of egalitarian preservation is proven in the mummification of all members of society and included men, women, the elderly, children, infants, and miscarried foetuses. In fact, it is often the case that children and babies received the most elaborate mummification treatments.

Often Chinchorro mummies were elaborately prepared by removing the internal organs and replacing them with vegetable fibres or animal hair. In some cases, an embalmer would remove the skin and flesh from the dead body and replace them with clay.

Radiocarbon dating reveals that the oldest discovered Chinchorro mummy was that of a child from a site in the Camarones Valley, about 60 miles south of Arica in Chile, and dates from around 5050 BC.

The head of an ancient Chinchorro mummy from northern Peru

The head of an ancient Chinchorro mummy from northern Peru (Photo by Pablo Trincado/ Wikimedia Commons )

Despite surviving for at least seven millennia, they began deteriorating about 10 years ago, when moisture began to allow bacteria to grow, said Ralph Mitchell, a Harvard University professor emeritus of applied biology. About 120 mummies, which radiocarbon dating date from 5050 BC and before, are rapidly deteriorating in the archaeological museum of the University of Tarapacá in Arica, Chile.

Reuters reports that Sergio Medina Parra, anthropologist and department head at University of Tarapaca in the northern city of Arica. is leading an attempt to get the Chinchorro mummies recognized by UN heritage body UNESCO as a world heritage site.

"The application is not a goal in itself, but the start of a process, of improved conservation tools, with the Chilean state and the international community," he said [via Reuters].

Only around 300 Chinchorro mummies have been discovered over the years. It is essential they are protected in order to preserve the last traces of this fascinating ancient culture.

Chinchorro mummy, south coast of Peru or north coast of Chile, 5000-2000 BC - San Diego Museum

Chinchorro mummy, south coast of Peru or north coast of Chile, 5000-2000 BC - San Diego Museum ( public domain )

Top image: A Chinchorro mummy showing signs of deterioration on the chest with the skin turning into black slime. Credit: Vivien Standen.

By April Holloway

Comments

White people never do anything wrong. There aren't any white looters because when they do the looting, it isn't called looting, it's called preservation. Of course, the things they preserve end up being transformed and taken away from the people. But we should be ok with that, right? GTFOH trying to take and give credit to monsters that are only capable of destruction is insanity. Your research is faulty, your logic is absent. But at least you're trying, good for you 'Genetiker.'

Good - you made your point about how smart you scientists are and how white people belong...everywhere.

But, what do your links and your intellect expunged have to do with how the grave robbing white coats have destroyed yet more corpses, of the indigenous ancestors of my peoples?

the arrogance of the comment and the article itself is freaking disgusting; in its lack of empathy and overt display of lack of responsible conduct for the dead.

Put them back where you found them and GET OUT!

I hate to break it to you, but White scientists aren't the ones who are doing irreparable damage to Peruvian and Chilean archeological sites. It's the native Peruvians and Chileans themselves, who loot all of the valuable artifacts from every site they can find, leaving the desecrated remains of the brown, chestnut, red, and blond-haired people of the ancient Peruvian and Chilean cultures, which they regard as worthless, strewn all over the desert sands and mountain highlands:

Looters strip Latin America of archaeological heritage
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2011/mar/21/looters-latin-america-arch...

Poor Peru Stands By as Its Rich Past Is Plundered
http://www.nytimes.com/1993/08/25/world/poor-peru-stands-by-as-its-rich-...

In Peru, Grave Robbers Vie With Archeologists For Ancient Treasure
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1991-06-23/news/9102250362_1_grave-ro...

Looting
http://huaqueando.blogspot.com/

Last year I performed a series of analyses of ancient American genomes, and they showed that a Chinchorro DNA sample dated to around 4000 BC was approximately 30% European and 70% Amerindian:

July 23, 2015: Analyses of ancient American genomes
https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/analyses-of-ancient-american-...

July 24, 2015: K = 4 admixture analysis of ancient American genomes
https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/k-4-admixture-analysis-of-anc...

August 3, 2015: K = 16 admixture analysis of ancient American genomes
https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/k-16-admixture-analysis-of-an...

October 6, 2015: Gravettian admixture in the Chinchorro people
https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2015/10/06/gravettian-admixture-in-the-c...

This was the first-ever conclusive DNA evidence that Europeans were in the Americas thousands of years ago. It was clear much earlier, however, that the Chinchorro people were at least partially European. In the following post from over three yeas ago I included numerous photographs of Chinchorro mummies showing that they have brown and chestnut European hair, and not black Amerindian hair:

March 26, 2013: The White Gods
https://genetiker.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/the-white-gods/

There is a mountain of other historical, archeological, anthropological, and genetic evidence proving the presence of Europeans in ancient America and Polynesia, and it's all documented in the featured posts listed at the top right of my blog:

https://genetiker.wordpress.com/

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Top image: Archaeologists looking at aerial photography found what they thought to be a hidden long barrow, or Neolithic burial chamber, hidden beneath a wheat field.
This summer, the University of Reading Archaeology Field School excavated one of the most extraordinary sites we have ever had the pleasure of investigating. The site is an Early Neolithic long barrow known as “Cat’s Brain” and is likely to date to around 3,800BC. It lies in the heart of the lush Vale of Pewsey in Wiltshire, UK, halfway between the iconic monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury.

Myths & Legends

Ancient Race of White Giants Described in Native Legends From Many Tribes
Several Native American tribes have passed down legends of a race of white giants who were wiped out. We’ll take a look at a few such legends, including those among the Choctaw and the Comanches of the United States down to the Manta of Peru.

Ancient Places

A photo of the interior of the Siebenberg House.
The Siebenberg House is a house / museum located in the Old City of Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter. The Siebenberg House is best-known for the archaeological finds that have been made beneath the present structure. The excavations under the house have revealed several archaeological layers, and allow one to obtain a glimpse of the city’s history.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article