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Unwrapping the Lives of the Paracas People

Scientists loosen the bindings on a Paracas Indian mummy bundle.
Scientists loosen the bindings on a Paracas Indian mummy bundle.

In 1925, Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello decided to trace the origins of ancient textiles that appeared on the illegal market. His investigation led him to the ruins of a stone building, where he discovered 429 funerary mummy bundles, each of which contained the desiccated body of a male adult set inside a basket filled with maize, yucca, peanuts, and other food, and wrapped in layers of cloth. Tello and fellow Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe excavated the site—the Paracas necropolis—in 1927 and 1928.

What a person was buried with varied according to the status of the individual in the Paracas society. The largest and richest mummy bundles contained bright textiles, feathered costumes, and jewelry. Some of the bodies inside the bundles were wrapped in alternating layers of plain cotton, including embroidered mantles, ponchos, multicolored shirts, turbans, and bags. Ornaments of gold, weapons, pottery, and woven-cane fans fringed with feathers were sometimes interspersed among the layers of cloth.

This method of burying the dead has been found across the ancient cemeteries on the Paracas Peninsula.

Text Source: Hall, Stephen S., and Robert Clark. "Peru's Nasca Lines." National Geographic Magazine Mar. 2010: [57]+. National Geographic Virtual Library.
Photo Credit:
  • Ira Block/National Geographic Creative