Mummy of the Month: Pachamac Mummy Bale No. 26626

December 1, 2011

The excavation in 1896 close to the Temple of Pachacamac.
This mummy bale of a child is constructed of cotton textiles over a basket framework. Object No. 26626. Height: 0.94 m

Starting in January of 1896, Max Uhle began his excavation of the Pachacamac cemetery in Peru. The site consisted of graves from different eras, but the best preserved layer dated from the late 6th century CE. From this site, the Museum has many objects in its collections (click here to see a few). The tombs from the 6th century layer were built of stone and mud brick in a conical shape. Inside these tombs, Uhle made the extraordinary find of mummies wrapped in basket-framework bales stuffed with leaves of local trees, topped with a false head made of wood with human facial features. It seems as if the preservation of these mummies were due more to natural processes than to any sort of artificial mummification processes.

Location of Pachacamac along the Peruvian coast.
X-ray of the skull of the mummy in bale No. 26626 highlighting the separation of bone plates.

The x-ray of bale no. 26626 revealed a corpse positioned in a tightly curled position, wrapped in cotton padding. The padding made the exact contents of the bale hard to determine from the x-ray images. The presence of a bronze object, potentially a shawl pin or topu worn by women, near the chest of the mummy suggests that the child was a girl. The smaller bones and presence of adult teeth that had not yet erupted suggest that the the girl was approximately 12-years old at the time of her death. Additionally, the x-ray revealed a potential cause of death; there appeared to have been “keying” or separating of the bone plates in the child’s skull, indicating a serious skull condition such as a tumor. It is curious that the x-rays show no evidence of medical procedures attempted to treat the girl’s condition. Given the burial’s proximity to the main Pachacamac shrine, the family would have been of high social standing, and most likely not lacking in material wealth. Click Here to read the Expedition article by Stuart Fleming.