Image: Mummy from Chacalluta
Mummy from Chacalluta, near Arica, Chile - On loan from the Macleay Museum, University of Sydney
- © Australian Museum
Recent research indicates that this mummy is female and would have died between the ages of 25 - 35. She was about 148cm in height and probably lived during the Late Intermediate period (1000 - 1476). Examination of her bones indicates that she did not suffer from any major diseases although there is pitting on the roof of each eye socket that suggests she suffered from iron deficiency anaemia or a high parasite load. It is unclear how she died. She was mummified in a flexed position and would have been wrapped tightly with cloth bindings, the impressions of which are evident on her skin.
The earliest evidence for mummification in the central Andean region of South America (parts of present-day Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Ecuador) dates back 9000 years. However, the origins of mummification are unclear. Most of the mummies found to date are naturally mummified but this region is also home to the oldest deliberately preserved mummies in the world - the Chinchorro mummies of northern Chile which date back about 7000 years ago.