After my near death experience while flying over the Nazca Lines, I went back to my hostel for about an hour before being picked up by a small van filled with other English speaking tourists. On the bus with me was Ryan, a video editor from Los Angeles, and an older couple from Holland.
Before heading to the Chauchilla cemetery, we were taken to the home of a ceramics craftsman where we were given a small presentation and then asked to buy one of his ceramic pots, bowls, or whistles. It was the Turkish carpet dealer all over again… and all I wanted to do was get the hell out of there.
Luckily, after just a few short minutes, we did just that. We jumped back in the van and on the way to the cemetery picked up another couple of tourists – a mother and her child. They spoke Spanish, however, and I never really found out where they were from or anything about them.
Instead, I spent the entire drive (about 30 km south of Nazca) speaking with the other English-speaking travelers.
After driving for some distance down the Pan-American highway, we made a left-hand turn onto a long dirt road and continued for quite some time on this rocky dirt track before reaching the actual cemetery.
Inside a small brick building was this mummy (below), which is supposedly the most well preserved mummy found in the region. The mummy had hair on its head, skin on its bones, and it even had large flaps of skin where his stomach would have been. It was really impressive… and a little frightening to think about the fact that this used to be a living, breathing person.
In a glass case next to this mummy was the mummified corpse of a baby. Its fingers and toenails were still in tact (as you can see by looking at the photo at the very top of this post).
After we had seen these two mummified bodies we headed out into the desert for a walking tour of a dozen or so pits where the bones, cotton wrappings and mummified corpses of several bodies have been placed for tourists like me to peer into. It was extremely windy as we walked from one pit to the next and I got sand in my eyes at multiple times throughout the tour.
Our guide told us that the bodies, bones and textile fragments we were viewing had not been found in these actual pits, but that they had been found in numerous places, scattered throughout the desert in the vicinity surrounding the cemetery.
In each pit there was usually one or two mummified bodies and a pile of skulls, leg or arm bones, and various bundles of cotton cloth.
Our guide explained that because of the desert being so incredibly dry in this area, and because of the way the bodies were wrapped (with cotton underneath and around them so as to absorb any moisture that might penetrate the sand), that this explains why the bodies are so well preserved.
The mummies above are all adults, while the mummy below is a small child.
Our tour guide explained that the natives who buried these bodies always placed the corpses in a sitting position… and always facing east – toward the rising sun.
What was even stranger than the mummified bodies were the scattered remains of hundreds of corpses all over the outlying area.
As we walked from pit to pit inside the Chauchilla cemetery you could see cotton wrappings stuck in the sand (like you see below), which were at one time being used to protect a mummified corpse from the elements.
Our tour leader explained that most of the bodies in this region were destroyed or sold off by grave robbers and that this is why so many of the bones and cotton fragments are scattered throughout the desert. Only the largest of the left-over remains have been placed in the viewing pits or put into local museums.
It’s hard to see in the photo above, but many of the long, white fragments you see in the foreground are actually human bones.
And so, after viewing the various pits filled with bones and mummified bodies, we were driven back to Nazca and dropped off at our respective hotels and hostels.
I ended up going out to dinner with Ryan at a place called Restaurant Los Angeles and once there we met two female backpackers (one from Germany and another one from India, but now living in San Francisco). The four of us spoke for hours and then we finally left the restaurant and went our separate ways.