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Peru: Chauchilla cemetery

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Chauchilla cemetery | Peru | Americas

[Visited: October 2007]

Soon after arriving in Nazca, we discovered that there was much more to explore than just the famous Lines. We felt a particular attraction to the ancient cemetery of Chauchilla, and found a very friendly driver to take us there at the end of a sunny late October day. After taking a left turn from the Pan American Highway, our little Korean car jolted over the dirt track towards the hills in the east and managed surprisingly well. The panorama before us was fantastic: empty landscape, strangely coloured hills, and friendly clouds in the sky giving even more depth to the lonely scene. Appropriate enough for a cemetery.

Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Chauchilla pampa with one of the graves

The Nazcans used to wrap their deceased in embroidered cotton cloth and applied resin as a cover, after which they were put into a crouched position in specially dug family graves. All deceased were placed looking east. The dry climate resulted in natural mummification and turned the dead into testimonies of their own culture long after they died. Over time, grave robbers have been searching for these graves and have plundered the contents in search for treasures. Until recently, the pampa of Chauchilla was littered with bones, skulls, cloth; fortunately, the area has been organized and most of the remains have been placed in tombs again. Still, when you look a little closer, the pampa itself contains a lot of bones and pieces of cloth. It is thus that we can see it now - covered graves giving us insight in how the Nazca culture tended to their dead.

Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Skull and bones in a grave at Chauchilla cemetery

It is absolutely amazing to see these old remains - they are around 2000 years old - sitting in their graves, many still with (sometimes very long) hair, with clothes, patiently waiting for time to pass. Bones and skulls bleached by time and expore to the merciless sun try to show that our body can actually last for very long. Tombs still have remains of gifts for the dead that were given for the afterlife. Many graves are family graves, and it is quite shocking to see how many very young skulls there are. Indeed, because of diseases and bad nutrition, Nazcans never grew older than around 35 years. The tiny museum among other things shows a mummy which, upon closer inspection, shows signs of mutilation: the lips and eyes sewn together, which was apparently done as a punishment while the victim was still alive; the person died that way.

Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Mummies in family grave at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Mummy and skulls at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Hairy skull in Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Mummy of human and parrot in grave at Chauchilla
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Skulls and bones in a grave at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Remains in a grave at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Dry sand preserved this skull very well
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Chauchilla museum: baby mummy
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Chauchilla landscape with hills and clouds
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Skull with hairband at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Remains of skeleton at Chauchilla cemetery
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Chauchilla cemetery: skull and bones
Picture of Chauchilla cemetery (Peru): Not much remains of this mummy

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