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First Mummies May Have Been Inspired by Field of Corpses 78

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the chinchorro-people-were-trve-kvlt dept.
sciencehabit writes with a story about a field strewn with corpses in shallow graves. From the article: "Trekking through Chile's Atacama Desert 7000 years ago, hunter-gatherers known as the Chinchorro walked in the land of the dead. Thousands of shallowly buried human bodies littered the earth, their leathery corpses pockmarking the desolate surroundings. According to new research, the scene inspired the Chinchorro to begin mummifying their dead, a practice they adopted roughly 3000 years before the Egyptians embraced it."
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First Mummies May Have Been Inspired by Field of Corpses

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:15PM (#40978837)
    Out of all the years I've been watching /., I don't think I've ever seen a more bad-ass story title.
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      Out of all the years I've been watching /., I don't think I've ever seen a more bad-ass story title.

      I guess it's better than a more literal "First Mummies May Have Been Inspired by Field of Dried out Bodies"

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Careful now, you'll inspire a new editorial trend... M$ fucks with Linus, swears this time its personal... Steve Jobs' diaries cause virtual jihad... Gooogle is pickin yo pocket muthafucka, whatchoo gonna do bout it... the butchification of this corner of geekdom isn't something to be desired neccessarily.

    • by Iskender (1040286)

      I think it's still not as good as "Scientists Create Supersoldier from Helium."

      Okay so that was someone misreading "Supersolid" but I'm still going to pretend otherwise!

    • Indeed, the story title is quite metal. "Field of Corpses" would be a great band name.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:23PM (#40978889)

    It was space aliens. Ancient civilizations were all developed by space aliens who came to Earth for some unknown reason, and decided to teach us everything.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Erick is that you????

    • It was space aliens. Ancient civilizations were all developed by space aliens who came to Earth for some unknown reason, and decided to teach us everything.

      it's a pity they stopped before before giving us the tools, knowledge, resources, and plans for an interstellar vessel.

    • by Nyder (754090)

      It was space aliens. Ancient civilizations were all developed by space aliens who came to Earth for some unknown reason, and decided to teach us everything.

      Actually it seems they came down for raw materials and "created/evolved" the "humans" to be the work force. They got what they wanted, and left. We just built ourselves up since then.

    • by DarthVain (724186)

      It was to hunt other aliens apparently, using us as human hosts. Its all very confusing and doesn't make a lot of sense, but then again I guess that is why they are alien.

  • ok sure but.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    where are these 1,000s of naturally occuring mummies now? if they really had enough dead to "pock mark the landscape" like they say then there must be a lot of at least partially intact left?

    • Re:ok sure but.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:41PM (#40979041) Journal

      Hard to say, really. They may still be out there, or they may have been rounded up and (mostly) buried when the region was converted to Christianity back in the 16th-17th century or so. Probably a bit of both, considering that scientists are still stumbling across the things.

      Hell, for all we know, they may have suffered the same fate as all too many Egyptian mummies, which were used as literal firewood and train boiler fuel [suite101.com], among other things.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Hard to say, really. They may still be out there, or they may have been rounded up and (mostly) buried when the region was converted to Christianity back in the 16th-17th century or so. Probably a bit of both, considering that scientists are still stumbling across the things.

        Hell, for all we know, they may have suffered the same fate as all too many Egyptian mummies, which were used as literal firewood and train boiler fuel [suite101.com], among other things.

        Like being ground up for medicine?

      • Re:ok sure but.. (Score:4, Informative)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday August 13, 2012 @08:02PM (#40979225)

        >>>mummies used as literal firewood and train boiler fuel,

        An urban legend started by Mark Twain.

        • Na. He was just ahead of his time. Gotta hand it to the Nazis, they were efficient in a sick and denigrating way.

        • by Nyder (754090)

          >>>mummies used as literal firewood and train boiler fuel,

          An urban legend started by Mark Twain.

          And Mark Twain was an urban legend created by this guy: Samuel Langhorne Clemens

          • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

            And Mark Twain was an urban legend created by this guy: Samuel Langhorne Clemens

            So he was the bastard who created Vista. Couldn't spell correctly either!

      • I went there (Score:5, Informative)

        by Namarrgon (105036) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @12:20AM (#40981061) Homepage

        They really are everywhere, particularly the Ica/Nazca region. There are well-known fields like Chauchilla [wikipedia.org], where there's a few very well-preserved mummies sitting in a whole field of miscellaneous bones and fabrics mixed in with the rocks. (Side note: They're all sitting out in the open, with only a simple roof covering them, and even that was only added recently after a few drops of rain fell one year. The Atacama is dry.)

        And then there are minor burial areas scattered all over the place. Our guide pointed out a few caves by the side of the road in passing, some of which had been partially bulldozed when they built the road. You could see human bone fragments mixed in with the roadside rubble.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Heh I found one https://maps.google.com/maps?q=-19.949063,+-69.633663&z=19&t=h

    • where are these 1,000s of naturally occuring mummies now? if they really had enough dead to "pock mark the landscape" like they say then there must be a lot of at least partially intact left?

      Probably in the same place where the lost army of Cambyses II went. ;-)

  • Confused (Score:4, Interesting)

    by readin (838620) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:31PM (#40978951)
    I found the story a bit confusing. If the climate was so dry that corpses didn't decompose, how was it wet enough to support a human population? Why weren't the corpses buried or burned in the first place? Were they burying the corpses in shallow graves and having them re-emerge for some reason?
    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Informative)

      by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:35PM (#40978987)

      I can only answer one of those questions, but as far as how it supported a human population, the Atacama desert [wikipedia.org] is an odd place: almost all of it is extremely dry and uninhabitable, but there are several oases that host some of the earliest sites of advanced civilization in the Americas.

      • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:43PM (#40979057) Journal

        The easiest explanation for the other bit is that the bodies came back "up" due to wind erosion, which the Atacama, like many deserts, would probably have more than enough of to go around.

        • Re:Confused (Score:4, Interesting)

          by artor3 (1344997) on Monday August 13, 2012 @08:38PM (#40979589)

          Or, alternatively, the bodies were never buried by humans in the first place, and were instead partially buried by winds. If people set out through that desert trying to find another oasis, and didn't bring sufficient supplies (bearing in mind that they would have no idea what "sufficient" was), they would likely die too quickly to bury their dead.

      • by Smauler (915644)

        It's not that odd - the Nile delta is only a small strip of land compared to the countryside around it. It sustained one of the longest civilizations in history, in a desert region.

        Also, the coast is key in many situations. If you can get water off the land, and you're on the coast, you generally should be ok for food.

      • Like most of the cultures that preserve their dead, rather than burying/burning/exposing them they had a nearby place where natural preservation occurred, desert or cave which dessicated the body, and they learned how to make this more reliable ....

    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Informative)

      by cpu6502 (1960974) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:42PM (#40979051)

      Yeah I had to read it twice:
      - From 10,000 to 7000 BCE the area was dry
      - Then it became wetter so it was able to support a larger & more culturally-diverse culture
      - This culture saw a bunch of dried corpses laying-around from the previous 3000 years, so they decided to start mummifying people themselves.

      • You forgot:

        - ???
        - Profit

        • by Trepidity (597)

          '???' probably involves some kind of hokey religion that uses the mummies to legitimize the rule of the priest/king class

          • by ChatHuant (801522)

            probably involves some kind of hokey religion that uses the mummies to legitimize the rule of the priest/king class

            I see what [atlasobscura.com] you mean...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There's water in places. Unfortunately it has 60 times the fatal concentration of arsenic. I have no idea why the locals kept living there long enough to build an immunity...

    • Re:Confused (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ericcc65 (2663835) on Tuesday August 14, 2012 @12:36AM (#40981141)
      I lived in the Atacama dessert for a couple of years so I can attest to the oasis concept, at least in part. For the most part I lived in cities and didn't know where I got my water, although I know there is one main river that makes it down to Antofagasta (the Loa river). But one time I took a trip a few hours inland. Now, keep in mind, the Atacama dessert (apart from the cities) isn't like your Mojave or anything like that, with tumbleweeds and Joshua trees and cacti. It's more like the surface of the moon (in fact there is a "valle de la luna"). Between cities there is nothing but dirt.

      At any rate, we eventually arrived at any incredible oasis. A nice stream flowing in a small valley, or more like a tunnel or crevice. I don't know if they were planted but there were tons of fruit trees (membrillo). Lots of lush vegetation. It was truly amazing, like something out of a movie, except you didn't see it until you were there because it was down below the surface.
    • I found the story a bit confusing. If the climate was so dry that corpses didn't decompose, how was it wet enough to support a human population? Why weren't the corpses buried or burned in the first place? Were they burying the corpses in shallow graves and having them re-emerge for some reason?

      Digging had not been invented because the shovel had not been invented - although that's a bit of a chicken and the egg story. :)
      Why not burn the bodies? It's a desert. Not much wood around. So, the state of their technology only allowed shallow burials.

      Finally, the mummification started at the start of the wet period. But that was likely a transition. So, when it slowly started to get wet, that civilization was at was commonly known as "Peak Body". Maybe it lead to mummification to avoid the rotting that a

  • "hundreds, if not thousands, of dead bodies that never decay."

    Maybe they'd be preserved in the tundra, or maybe if they were encased in mud or clay, but in a shallow desert grave I don't think they're immune from the larger ecosystem.

    • Re:Cemetery of Eden (Score:4, Informative)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday August 13, 2012 @07:44PM (#40979071) Journal

      Once the water is gone from a corpse, there really isn't much ecosystem left to go around for bacteria (or any other underground organisms that normally feed on dead human flesh).

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Kind of like a human beef jerky?

        • by tragedy (27079)

          Farnsworth: This is for you, Fry [He hands Fry a small, gift-wrapped mummy.] Zevulon the Great. He's teriyaki style.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Not sure why you're confused? Deserts dry-out the tissue & make it not decay. Even now in Egypt people are still finding thousands-year-old corpses that were not mummified, but the desert still preserved their bodies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @08:53PM (#40979777)

    I only liked their early stuff.

  • by Kittenman (971447) on Monday August 13, 2012 @09:06PM (#40979907)
    "First Mummies may have been inspired by bad night's sleep"
    "First Mummies may have been inspired by bird song heard by someone"
    "First Mummies may have been inspired by Shakespeare's MacBeth"

    Isn't there a journalistic law that covers this sort of thing, when the answer is ' but probably not'?
  • ....inspired people to realize that desert sand doesn't really work that well for swimming practice.
    ....inspired one common Internet-phenomenon when one of them had scrawled the word "First!" on a nearby rock.
    ....inspired the invention of the term "dry humour."

  • ...to build a bunch of astronomical observatories, for astronomers who clearly never watched any horror films.

    Ancient burial grounds FTW.

  • Egyptian Mummies cited Anubis as their inspiration while calling Chileans "plebs" long before the Romans invented the related social class.
    • I don't think there is any written reference to Chilean people in any of the Egyptian or Roman Histories. Could site your reference?
  • Mummies are the zombies of the 1950's

  • What is the distance between the South American continent and the Afican continent,(at closest point) if Sea Level is 500 feet lower, and 10,000 years ago?

    I'm thinking Continental Drift(an inch a year adds up), an Ice Age(caused sea level to be about 500 lower), and Reed Bundled boats(someone that didn't have a GPS then).

Air is water with holes in it.

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