The Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture comprises three locations along the arid Pacific coast of Chile.
The Chinchorro who lived here between 6000 and 2000 BC mainly relied on fishing. They are known for their detailed mummification technique; some 282 mummies have been recovered, spanning not only the elite but all members of society.
Map of Chinchorro CultureLoad map
The property centers around the Chinchorro people who lived in the arid coastal area of the Atacama Desert (in northern Chile and southern Peru), from around 5000 BC to 1000 BC. They were marine hunters-gatherers and are known for having left behind the oldest know artificial mummification of bodies (predating the Egyptian mummies).
The Chinchoro mummified all the dead, including children and even miscarried fetuses.
Over the centuries, the mummification process complexified with dismembering and reassembling the bodies and the use of artificial clay face masks.
The mummies have become a landmarks in the area around Arica, with monumental statues figuring the mummies in many places, among them along the Highway 10, and many urban street art depicting them (statue in Desemboca top picture; street art on Morro de Arica bootm right picture)
I visited the three components of this property in June 2022. The two first are within Arica city limit, so are easy to visit. The third more of less necessitates a car to be reached.
- The northern face of the Morro de Arica: located on the slope of a hill above the city of Arica. Cemeteries where found and excavated. Nowadays, not much remains, except a look at the arid desert soil and an exceptional view over the city of Arica and the plains beyond.
- Colón 10: a small museum, next to the Morro de Arica, preserving in situ an old cemetery. It was discovered in 2004 while reconstructing a house on the hillside of Arica city. The mummies are covered with a glass floor on which you can step. Therefore, we can get a very close view of the mummies (picture bottom left). Entrance fee of $2000 (about 2 US$)
-100 km south of Arica is the Desembocadura de Camarones. It lies 10 km west of Highway 10. The road is paved all the way, but I don’t think there is any public transportation. It is a spectacular unspoilt natural location in an area of coastal cliffs, centered around the Camarones river mouth. It includes remains of settlements and cemeteries is a spectacular landscape. A monumental statue representing a mummy was constructed in 2010 next to some of the excavation site.
Even though not part of the property, I would strongly encourage a visit to the Anthropology Museum in San Miguel de Azapa, some 10 km inland from Arica (with bus connection). It helps better understand the lives of the Chichorro people, the way they lived and the mummification process. The museum shows the Chinchoro culture in all details and preserves many of the mummies, among them those recovered in Morro de Arica and Camarones. It costs $2000 (about 2 US$).
Altogether, it is worth the effort to get to this remote but magnificiant area of Northern Chile; the OUV is clear, especially with the in situ museum of Colón 10. The city of Arica is nice (cheap direct flight from Santiago) and the Atacama desert landscape of this area is spectacular.
2021 Advisory Body overruled
ICOMOS advised Referral
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