Nazca culture, Peru

Chauchilla Cemetery

Plundered and left asunder by grave robbers, this ancient necropolis has been painstakingly pieced back together

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Since 1997, Peruvian law has protected the haunting Chauchilla Cemetery, but not before it was ravaged mercilessly by Peruvian grave robbers. For many of these thousand year old corpses, this would end up being the second time they lost their heads. 

Scattered among the many full bodied mummies at Chauchilla Cemetery are a number of mummified heads. Many of the heads have been specially prepared with holes drilled into the backs of their skulls, and in some cases rope has been threaded through the mummified head. This is possibly so they could be worn as a necklace or as a jaunty charm hanging off of a belt. Originally believed to be "trophy heads" taken in battles, recent evidence shows that the heads actually came from the same population as the rest of the mummies, suggesting the heads may not have been taken in battle after all. The exact nature and use of the heads remains distinctly unclear. 

Though the burial grounds have not been utilized since the 9th century, the human remains are astoundingly well-preserved. The Peruvian Desert's dry climate is of course a factor in the preservation, but burial practices also contributed to the condition of many of the corpses, some still hanging on to their hair and skin a thousand years after their demise.

Clothed in cotton and painted with resin, the deceased were placed in mud-bricked tombs. Wooden posts that were once assigned by archeologists to the category of religious use are now thought to be drying posts for the dead, which would explain the added step needed for such an impressive example of mummification.

Discovered in the 1920s, the remains and artifacts were spread across the area, picked over by nefarious pilferers. It has been restored to as close to its original state as possible, bones, bodies, heads, and artifacts either returned to tombs or showcased in displays.

  • Address
    Carretera a Chauchilla, Nazca culture, Peru
  • Cost
    Tourists can enjoy the archeological wonder for a mere 7 U.S. dollars
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Map/Directions
Chauchilla Cemetery is located south east of the city of Nasca at 28km. Tour information can be found on several Peruvian travel websites
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