Mummies Around the World @ Mummy Tombs


Paracas Mummies


Where they were found

Mummification in South America was also practiced along the Pacific coast in the fishing village of Paracas. More than 429 human mummy bundles have been found there, as well as bundles containing parrots, foxes, dogs, cats, frogs, and deer.

When they were made

They apparently date from around 400 B.C. However, not all archaeologists agree that these mummies were intentionally made. 

How they were made

In Paracas, bodies were put into "mummy bundles" before they were interred in a large underground necropolis, or burial chamber. They were placed in a seated position and bound tightly with cord. Then they were covered with cotton cloth and wrapped with brightly decorated fabric. Finally, the body was placed in a coiled basket and taken to the necropolis. 

How many were made

No one knows.

What's special about them

1. Archaeologists have concluded that when the person was important in the community, more layers of fabric were used to wrap the body. In one case, writes the author Georgess McHargue, the was four yards wide and twenty-two yards long. This cloth was woven by hand, so a great deal of painstaking work was involved in its production. 

2. Did the citizens of Paracas intend to make mummies? Some archaeologists believe that mummification occurred through a natural drying process. Others believe that resins were used to prepare the bodies. But until further studies take place and the results are compared, no one will know for certain.


Where to see them

One Paracas mummy bundle is displayed in Hildesheim, Germany, at the Roemer-Pelizaeus Museum.

Where to find more information

The Incas and Their Ancestors: The Archaeology of Peru (Revised Edition) by Michael Moseley is an excellent book that contains pertinent information about the mummies of Paracas

Mummies, Disease and Ancient Cultures by Eve and Aidan Cockburn and Theodore Reyman has an excellent chapter on "The Mummies of Peru" by James Vreeland Jr. Many b&w photos.

How to Make a Mummy Talk by James M. Deem has a short section on Paracas mummies.