We are in Peru, where, since 1997, law has protected the macabre Chauchilla Cemetery, a Nazca burial ground where mummified corpses were laid to rest until the ninth century.
Discovered in the 1920s, the remains and artifacts were spread across the area, picked over by grave robbers.
However, the burial ground has been restored to as close to its original state as possible, with the bones, bodies, heads, and artifacts either returned to tombs or showcased in displays.
So, prior 1997, it was ravaged mercilessly by Peruvian grave robbers, and for many of these poor ancient corpses, it was the second time they lost their heads!
In fact, scattered among the many entire mummies, at Chauchilla Cemetery there are lot of mummified heads.
Many of the heads have been specially prepared with holes drilled into the backs of their skulls, and in some of these, rope has been threaded through the mummified head.
This is possibly so they could be worn as a necklace? Or as an unusual charm hanging off of a belt?
Even if originally believed to be “trophy heads” taken in battles, recent evidence speak about a theory that the heads actually came from the same population as the rest of the mummies, suggesting the heads may not have been taken in battle. However, the exact nature and use of the heads remain still today a mistery.
Even if the burial grounds have not been utilized since the ninth century, the human remains are astoundingly well-preserved.
The Peruvian Desert’s dry climate is, of course, a factor in the preservation, but also burial practices contributed to the condition of lot of the corpses, some still hanging on to their hair and skin over 1200 years after their death.
The deceased were usually placed in mud-bricked tombs, clothed in cotton and painted with resin. Wooden posts that were once assigned by archeologists to the category of religious use, are now thought to be drying posts for the corpse, which would explain this impressive and rare example of mummification.