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Mummies, mummies and egalitarian society

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efagels
1166494.  Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:51 am Reply with quote

A brief introduction to mummies, their mummies and probable egalitarian societies of Pre-Colombian South America

Many people know about Egyptian mummies and how they influenced other societies, such as Romans and 17th century Europeans, but few know where mummification began and who started this 7000 year old practice.

Artificial mummification first began in South America in 5000BC, 2000 years before Egyptian mummification, and continued there until the Spanish conquest in AD1534. The oldest examples of mummification are from the Chinchorro people of North Chile/South Peru. The Chinchorro mummies can be split in to two kinds: black faced and red faced (2500-2000BC).

These early mummies were mainly infants, neonates and foetuses, found in the Camarones Valley, North Chile. This may be because high arsenic levels in the near-by river caused spontaneous abortions, still births and a high infant mortality rate. A strong emotional and social response among Chinchorro women, led to natural mummification to preserve their babies.

As the Chinchorro people, particularly women, were experts in sea mammal butchery and anatomy they had a detailed understanding of the body and became skilled in rebuilding their dead. It is thought that a female communal effort was utilised to prepare the dead and that as all black mummies looked and were treated the same perhaps there was a ‘democracy in death’ in Chinchorro society. The fact that children and foetuses were mummified implies that children were considered as part of Chinchorro society. Religious life was spiritually complex as they had a belief in the afterlife and the duality of body and soul, similar to that of the Egyptians.

Unlike the Chinchorro, who were egalitarian in life and death, Moche people burials focused on their dead elite, interring them in pyramids with high status foods such as beans, potato, peanuts and maize, although many simple burials have been found. The dead were seen as alive in some form and were given food offerings which were lowered into the mud brick pyramids by libation holes.

A third group of South American mummies, called the Chiribaya, many Chiribaya men had ornate hairstyles, such as plaited or woven hair, and hats, with feathers imported from the Amazon designed to complement their conical, elongated skulls. The Chiribaya continued to move away from the classless Chinchorro culture by using their intricately braided hairstyles to show status.

There was little development of mummification techniques and treatment of the dead during Moche and Chiribaya cultures; however in the context of their surrounding societies we can see the evolution of mummification practices such as mummy bundles and burial offerings.
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REFERENCES:
Arriaza, B.T., (2005) Aresniasis as an environmental hypothetical explanation for the origin of the oldest artificial mummification practice in the world, Chungara Chilean Journal of Anthropology, 37 (2) 255-260.

Arriaza, B.T., Doubrava, M., Standen, V.G. and Hass, H., (2005) Differential Mortuary Treatment among the Andean Chinchorro Fishers: Social Inequalities or In Situ Regional Cultural Evolution?, Current Anthropology, 46 (4) 662-671.

Aufdeheide, A.C., (2003) The Scientific Study of Mummies, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

Reid, H., (1999) In Search of the Immortals, Headline Book Publishing: London.[/b]

 
Jenny
1166551.  Sun Jan 03, 2016 1:37 pm Reply with quote

Interesting stuff! See if you can find a link to N for the N series :-)

 
Zziggy
1166569.  Sun Jan 03, 2016 3:38 pm Reply with quote

Necro-something?

 
efagels
1166644.  Sun Jan 03, 2016 8:09 pm Reply with quote

Not egyptian? Bit of a stretch though. I'll have a think

 
AspiringElf
1178902.  Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:47 pm Reply with quote

Interesting stuff.

A few quibbles follow.

(1) You write that, 'The Chinchorro mummies can be split in to two kinds: black faced and red faced' - yet seemingly you proceed to mention - well, what? Only the black-faced ones? It seems unclear.

(2) The following sentence is not really a sentence and so fails to make sense.
Quote:
A third group of South American mummies, called the Chiribaya, many Chiribaya men had ornate hairstyles, such as plaited or woven hair, and hats, with feathers imported from the Amazon designed to complement their conical, elongated skulls.

 

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