In 1983, just outside Arica, in the desert of northern Chile, nearly 100 mummified bodies were discovered beneath the sand.
The Chinchorro mummies are the oldest known form of mummification. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the Chinchorro people were mummifying their dead by 5000 BC, 2000 years before the Egyptians.
The Chinchorro people were hunter-gathers. The simplicity of their lifestyle makes the sophisticated practices of preserving their dead even more extraordinary. The technique varied over time, but included removing the brain and internal organs, drying the cavities with hot stones, replacing long bones with sticks, and creating a mask made of clay to cover the face.
On our way up the Azapa Valley we stopped at the museum housing the mummies and a collection of pre-Columbian artifacts. They were fascinating.
On a different note, remember when I stashed a jar of peanut butter in my sleeping bag two days ago and smuggled it across the border? I had forgotten about it until tonight when we set up camp and I discovered that the oils had leaked out and are now soaked into the down feathers of my sleeping bag.
That’s some Chilean karma for me.
We washed our sleeping bags while we were home. Mine still had that newly washed smell. Now it smells like peanut butter, which I guess is still better than what it smelled like before I washed it. I just hope it doesn’t go rancid.