Most people know that the mummies of the ancient Egyptians are the most famous of all, but few know that they are not the oldest.
The Chinchorro people of Chile’s Atacama Desert were the first to mummify their dead – 7,000 years ago, according to the BBC.
In the driest place on Earth in the Atacama Desert in Chile, mummies that predated the Egyptians by 2,000 years have been found.
Although the ancient Pharaonic civilization is the most famous civilization to mummify its dead, it turns out that they were not the first to do so.
The Chinchorro are the first people to inhabit northern Chile and southern Peru, and they are the first known culture in the world to mummify its dead, about 5,000 BC.
The remains of hundreds of these marine fishermen, who lived on the Pacific coast of the Atacama from 5450 BC to 890 BC, were found them in the regions of Arica and Parinacota.
In 2021, these tombs were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List for the immense archaeological value it provided.
Not only do these mummies reveal the detailed mortuary and artillery practices of the ancient Chinchorro culture, but they provide insight into the social and spiritual structures of their society.
For example, mummification was not restricted to the upper class of society, as in ancient Egypt, but was a ritual for all.
The Chinchorro people are the first funeral practitioners.
Although recognition by UNESCO came only recently, the people of Arica have known the unique archaeological remains for a long time because the bodies were buried near the surface.
For example, when workers began digging to build a hotel, in 2004 they hit bones less than one meter underground, and instead turned the site into a museum.
Hundreds of mummies have been discovered so far, including the mummies of infants and children.