The world’s oldest mummies come to Chile’s presidential palace

Belonging to the Chinchorro culture of Chile’s Atacama desert, the most ancient mummies in the world are currently being displayed in the beating heart of Santiago.

Hollywood may have made the mummy synonymous with Egypt, but in fact, the oldest mummies yet discovered on the planet come from Chile. And now you can see them in Santiago.

The mummies come from the ancient Chinchorro culture of Chile’s Atacama Desert, as well as areas of southern Peru.

The oldest yet to be discovered among the sands of the Atacama dates back to around 7020 BC, while the Chinchorro are thought to have began artificially preserving their dead around 5050 BC, and continued to do so until roughly 1800 BC.

For a little perspective, the oldest mummy found to date in Egypt dates at around 3000 BC, a time when 2,000 years of practice had seen the Chinchorro people reach the zenith of their mummy-making abilities.

Where to see the mummies

To see these ancient wonders, head to the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, which sits beneath the Presidential Palace in the heart of Chile’s capital.

The mummies are the star attraction of the Chile 15 mil años (‘Chile 15,000 years”) exhibition, which will run at the cultural center until October 18 of this year.

Also on display are 670 artefacts from the collection of the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, which celebrate the diversity and richness of Chile’s indigenous cultures, as well as their continuing legacy in modern Chile.

The objects range from the sculptures of the Rapa Nui people of Easter Island, to beanies and headwear from the cultures of the far north – which represented the highly structured, hierarchical nature of their societies – to the intricate jewelry of the Mapuche people of Chile’s south-central regions.

Arrowheads, ceremonial vases, carved wooden pipes for the ceremonial consumption of tobacco and hallucinogens, as well as a wide range of ceramics and fabrics, from the length of the country, are also on display.

Family activities

The exhibition also features several interactive workshops and games, aimed at bringing Chile’s pre-Columbian culture alive for young visitors.

Entrance is free.