The origins of mummies

Scientists speculate on why ancient South Americans started preserving their dead

By Stephen Ornes, 15:03 PM August 27, 2012

Though ancient Egyptians are famous for their mummies, Americans — South Americans — practiced the preservation method first. In a desert coastal region of what is now northern Chile and southern Peru, the Chinchorro people began mummifying their dead about 7,000 years ago. Now scientists have proposed an explanation for how this practice got its start: The Chinchorro were just copying nature.

The ancient South Americans buried corpses in shallow graves in the desert. There, the arid clim...

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