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Chinchorro Bioarchaeology: Chronology and Mummy Seriation

  • Bernardo T. Arriaza (a1)
Abstract

The Chinchorros were a preceramic fishing society that inhabited the Atacama coast of southern Peru and northern Chile from about 7020 to 1110 B. C., and their antiquity is much greater than originally thought. Previous Chinchorro chronologies have focused on seriation of fishing implements; this paper suggests analysis of mummies as another useful chronological tool. The Chinchorro system of artificial mummification, the oldest in the world, began about 5050 B. C, and was abandoned about 1720 B. C. Black, Red, Bandage, Mud-Coated, and Natural mummification styles represent diachronic cultural changes. In contrast to previous views, I argue here that the sophisticated Chinchorro mortuary practices originated locally, near Arica, specifically in the Camarones Gorge. The high concentration of cemeteries, high mortuary energy expenditure, presence of villages, and heavy reliance on maritime subsistence, as inferred from mummies, artifacts and human bone analyses, are all indicators that the Chinchorros were an early sedentary maritime society. The ideological complexity and antiquity of settlement of the Andean coast therefore need reappraisal.

Los Chinchorros representan una cultura de pescadores precerámicos que habitaban la costa sur del Perú y el norte de Chile entre los años 7020 al 1110 A. C., y su antigüedad es mucho más grande de lo que se pensaba. Tradicionalmente, la seriación de los artefactos de pesca ha servido como un instrumento cronológico para la periodificación de Chinchorro; aquí sugiero, en cambio, que el análisis de las técnicas de momificación es un método alternativo. El sistema de momificación artifical de la cultura Chinchorro, el más antiguo del mundo, originó hacia 5050 A. C., y fue abandonado hacia 1720 A. C. Por contraste con previas opiniones, sugiero que las sofisticadas técnicas de momificación de Chinchorro se originarían localmente, en el área de Arica, especificamente en la Quebrada de Camarones. Los estilos de momificación negra, roja, con vendajes, con pátina de barro, y natural representan cambios culturales diacrónicos. La alta complejidad mortuoria, junto con la alta concentración de cementerios costeros, la presencia de villorrios, y la fuerte subsistencia marítima estarían indicando que la Cultura Chinchorro fue una sociedad netamente marítima, con un elevado sedentarismo. Por lo tanto, la complejidad ideológica y la antigüedad del poblamiento costero de esta región andina necesitan ser reavaluados.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

A. Aufderheide , I. Muñoz , and B. Arriaza 1993 Seven Chinchorro Mummies and the Prehistory of Northern Chile. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 91:189201.

M. Rivera 1991 The Prehistory of Northern Chile: A Synthesis. Journal of World Prehistory 5(1): 147.

M. Stuiver , and P. Reimer 1993 Extended 14C Data Base and Revised Calib 3.0. 14C Age Calibration Program. Radiocarbon 35:215230.

D. True , and L. Nuñez 1971 Modeled Anthropomorphic Figurines from Northern Chile. Ñawpa Pacha 9:6586.

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Latin American Antiquity
  • ISSN: 1045-6635
  • EISSN: 2325-5080
  • URL: /core/journals/latin-american-antiquity
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