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Why the Chinchorro suddenly began to mummify their dead
Past Horizons ^ | 8-13-2012

Posted on 08/14/2012 12:38:53 PM PDT by Renfield

Researchers in Chile, led by Pablo Marqueta, an ecologist with Universidad Católica de Chile have arrived at a new theory to explain why a culture that existed around seven thousand years ago suddenly began to mummify their dead. The Chinchorro

The researchers have been examining the Chinchorro, hunter-gatherers that lived in the desert region of what is now northern Chile and southern Peru, from about 10,000 to 4,000 years ago. The mummies first date to 5050 BCE and continue to be made until about 1800 BCE.

The Chinchorro people lived by a combination of fishing, hunting and gathering: the word Chinchorro means roughly ‘fishing boat‘. They lived along the coast of the Atacama Desert of northern-most Chile from the Lluta valley to the Loa river and up into southern Peru. The earliest sites which are mostly recognised as middens date as early as 7,000 BCE at the site of Acha, and the coastal middens indicate a diet predominated by sea mammal, coastal birds and fish.

While most cultures that practised ritual preservation sought to focus on preserving the elite of the society, the Chinchorro tradition performed mummification on all members of the group from babies to elderly and with no distinction for sex, making them archaeologically significant. In fact, it is often the case that children and babies received the most elaborate mummification treatments – and of the 282 mummies that have been found by archaeologists the statistics seem to hold to an egalitarian mummification ritual. A sudden need to mummify

The new theory focuses on the idea that they began mummifying their dead as a way to deal with the bodies of those that had passed on, but refused to decompose, as a result of environmental change. The bodies wouldn’t decompose because it was simply too dry; the area is one of the driest places on Earth.

Over time, because the Chinchorro buried their dead in shallow graves, the wind would partially uncover them, leaving those living in the area to be constantly exposed to thousands of naturally dessicated bodies that sensitized the local population to a cult of the dead. Increasing contact with natural mummies over the Chinchorro’s 5000-year history, the authors suggest, likely underlies the culture’s complex funerary practices.

But there was more to it than this they suggest – after studying ice samples from a nearby volcano, and other ecological factors, the team deduced that the area in which the Chinchorro lived – around six to seven thousand years ago – experienced a relative increase in water, but not in the air. More snow fell in the mountains leading to more water flowing down into the valleys, which led to more fish in the ocean nearby. Ideas exchange

The Chinchorro culture thrived, leading to groups as large as a hundred or more individuals. And when group size increases, the team says, along with prosperity, culture thrives as new ideas are exchanged. The combination of the two, the group says, led to burial rituals, one of which was mummification, a natural extension of what the people were already seeing around them. This idea is reinforced by the fact that when conditions changed the mummification stopped. Around four thousand years ago, the heavier snows in the mountains ceased, leading to less water, less fish in the ocean, and a declining human population.

The emergence of complex cultural practices in simple hunter-gatherer groups poses interesting questions on what drives social complexity and what causes the emergence and disappearance of cultural innovations.

The researchers have convincingly analysed the conditions that underlay the emergence of artificial mummification in the Chinchorro culture and provided sound statistical, empirical and theoretical evidence that artificial mummification appeared during a period of increased coastal freshwater availability and marine productivity, which caused an increase in human population size and accelerated the emergence of cultural innovations.


TOPICS: History; Science
KEYWORDS: archaeology; chile; chinchorro; godsgravesglyphs; mummies

Chinchorro mummies

1 posted on 08/14/2012 12:39:00 PM PDT by Renfield
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To: SunkenCiv

Ping.


2 posted on 08/14/2012 12:39:51 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

Since when have Catholic Universities started using BCE -?


3 posted on 08/14/2012 12:55:13 PM PDT by Last Dakotan
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To: Renfield

Started as a status thing. Became a fad. Caught on. Turned into an industry.


4 posted on 08/14/2012 12:57:01 PM PDT by BenLurkin (This is not a statement of fact. It is either opinion or satire; or both)
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To: BenLurkin

Egyptian Mummies have traces of Cocaine—That means there was trade between Egypt and South America—the Egyptians could have told them about Mummies and the importance of them. This could be cross-cultural pollution. Ideas have a habit of going very far indeed.


5 posted on 08/14/2012 1:05:57 PM PDT by Forward the Light Brigade (Into the Jaws of H*ll)
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To: Renfield
I always assumed it started as some kind of government stimulus scheme....

/johnny

6 posted on 08/14/2012 1:13:51 PM PDT by JRandomFreeper (Gone Galt)
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To: Last Dakotan

Past Horizons is a British on-line magazine. As far as I am aware, they have no affiliation with any Catholic university.


7 posted on 08/14/2012 1:14:20 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield
Could also be...


8 posted on 08/14/2012 1:32:12 PM PDT by A message
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To: Renfield

Hmm...in Venezuela, chinchorro is what they call a hammock. My off-topic dos pesos, sorry...


9 posted on 08/14/2012 1:43:50 PM PDT by jagusafr
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To: Renfield

Hmm...in Venezuela, chinchorro is what they call a hammock. My off-topic dos pesos, sorry...real y medio, actually.


10 posted on 08/14/2012 1:44:46 PM PDT by jagusafr
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To: Renfield

Don’t look as tasty as Chorizo mummies.


11 posted on 08/14/2012 1:50:43 PM PDT by Tijeras_Slim
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To: Renfield

” - - - the team deduced that the area in which the Chinchorro lived – around six to seven thousand years ago – experienced a relative increase in water, but not in the air. More snow fell in the mountains leading to more water flowing down into the valleys, - - - - “

Thanks for the data.

If my memory hasn’t failed me again, there was an World Ocean low stillstand at 5,000 YBP. Do you have any data on that?


12 posted on 08/14/2012 2:07:50 PM PDT by Graewoulf ((Traitor John Roberts' Obama"care" violates Sherman Anti-Trust Law, AND the U.S. Constitution.))
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To: Graewoulf

The above images are from Wikipedia.

13 posted on 08/14/2012 2:37:35 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Graewoulf

p.s. Note that the sample stations in those graphs are all in the tropics. Graphs of sea level vs time at high latitudes (>45 degrees) would be different because of glacial rebound.


14 posted on 08/14/2012 2:42:56 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

Thanks! Looks like my memory failed me, again. It was 5KYBC, not 5KBP. I stand corrected!


15 posted on 08/14/2012 2:53:00 PM PDT by Graewoulf ((Traitor John Roberts' Obama"care" violates Sherman Anti-Trust Law, AND the U.S. Constitution.))
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To: Renfield; StayAt HomeMother; Ernest_at_the_Beach; decimon; 1010RD; 21twelve; 24Karet; ...

 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Renfield.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


16 posted on 08/14/2012 4:25:21 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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To: SunkenCiv

Well, here’s some more (new) stuff about those iron-age warriors found massacred in the Danish bog:

http://www.heritagedaily.com/2012/08/macabre-finds-in-the-bog-at-alken-enge/


17 posted on 08/14/2012 4:31:09 PM PDT by Renfield (Turning apples into venison since 1999!)
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To: Renfield

I was sure there was at least one topic about this, search turned up one match (your message just now). :’)


18 posted on 08/14/2012 5:00:56 PM PDT by SunkenCiv (https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
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