Mummies Dearest

While visiting the Chauchilla Cemetery, you may be tempted to mutter the classic movie line, “I see dead people.”

Because you do. You can’t miss them. The mummified remains are found throughout this ancient burial site located about 20 miles south of the town of Nazca. (Note, many visitors make a day out of it by seeing the famous Nazca lines in the morning, and the Chauchilla Cemetery in the afternoon.)

Dead bodies began arriving at these mud brick pits around 200 AD, and continued to do so for another six or seven centuries. Most of them haven’t gone anyplace. Most, but thanks to a bevy of grave robbers, not all. In 1997 the site became protected by Peruvian law, and since then, much of the damage caused by the grave robbers has been reversed (though there are still random piles of bones and skulls laying about).

Many of the mummies look pretty good for their age (“You don’t look a day over 600.”), which is believed to be the result of the ancient Nazca tradition of wrapping the dead with a shroud that was then painted with a resin. The thought is the resin kept insects away and slowed the deterioration process. As a result, many of the bodies still have their hair.

Even if a big ghoulish, the Chauchilla Cemetery is a fascinating excursion.