Good morning, today we are going to look at the Secrets of the Chinchorro Mummies with Joann Fletcher. These mummies are the oldest in the world and they are found in Chile. They came from a people who believed they could conquer death. The first settlers lived on fishing. In 1993, there was a sensational find in Chile: the bodies of the earliest people. These bodies were well preserved and were the oldest mummies in the world.
These people perfected mummification before the Egyptians. Who were these people who perfectly preserved their bodies? Why did they bury their people with such loving care? It had been known that the Chinchorro people lived on the Chilean coast. They fished and were buried with their fishing bags. They had no metal tools. They did not leave the permanent buildings behind. However, the one thing they did was mummify everyone. No matter, what rank, the Chinchorro mummified the people. Men, women, and children were mummified. It was only recently that people realized how unique the Chinchorro mummies are.
Professor Bernardo Arriaza has spent years studying the Chinchorro people. He works with a group to learn more about Chinchorro's secrets. Since its discovery in 1993, the knowledge of the Chinchorro has grown. Specialists in other fields are helping further knowledge about the Chinchorro. A dig is being undertaken and it will be the last for a long time.
The initial excavations brought up more bodies than the archeologists could handle. How could the remains be preserved as well? It was a rescue operation that had to be done and done quickly. The 96 bodies were brought to a small museum and the exhibitions where artifacts were moved. The collection has 100’s of skulls and other fragments of the mummies. The first mummy ever found in 1915 is also in this museum as well.
In this digging season, Arriaza has brought together a team of experts. Joann Fletcher joins this dig. She is a leading expert on Egyptian mummies and wants to compare how the Egyptians mummified their dead to the Chinchorro methods. She talks with the archeologists on the field and watches the dig. She observes the similarities between the Eqyptians and the Chinchorro. Egyptian’s took their inspiration for mummification from the desert. The Chinchorros seemed to have realized that the desert could preserve their dead. They simply wrapped their dead in reed mats and let the desert to the west. Eventually, some rituals became tied to death.
The Chinchorro’s mummification techniques were unique. They removed the flesh from the body and removed soft tissue. They reinforced the skeleton with sticks. The bodies were packed with grass and animal air. They were wrapped with reed mats and were covered with clay. A clay mask with human hair was also put on the head. These were mummies that were meant to be moved. Children also were mummified, which was highly unusual.
The Chinchorro’s started as a hunter/gatherer people. They eventually settled on the Chilean coast and settled into life. It would have been a comfortable existence. They hunted seals. They had cactus needles for fish hooks. Reeds for mats were plentiful along the coast. Nets, clothing, and burial were shrouds were created from reeds. A picture of primitive but creative people started emerging through the excavations. Technology is also providing a breakthrough in learning about the Chinchorro people.
To continue to learn more about the Chinchorro people and their mummies continue to watch this documentary.
This would be a good documentary for a history class, specifically a South American history class, as well as an anthropology class.
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