Category Archives: CHILE

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Brutalised skeletons of ancient farmers who ‘battered each other to death in world’s DRIEST desert’ found

Grisly human remains of ancient farmers who worked in one of the world’s driest deserts have been examined as part of a new study. The battered skeletons were found in the Atacama Desert in modern-day Chile and date back 3,000 years.

Lethal wounds could be seen on some of the skulls

The brutal conditions of their dry workplace weren’t the only thing they had to deal with though.

The skeletons show how the farmers lived in a time of social tension that led to violence and murder.

The researchers write in their study: “The emergence of elites and social inequality fostered interpersonal and inter- and intra-group violence associated with the defence of resources, socio-economic investments, and other cultural concerns.

“This study evaluated violence among the first horticulturalists in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile during the Neolithic transition between 1000 BCE – 600 CE. Furthermore, it analyzed trauma caused by interpersonal violence using a sample of 194 individuals.”

The 194 skeletons investigated were all adult and came from ancient cemeteries in the desert’s Azapa Valley.

This was said to be one of the richest and most fertile valleys that the ancient farmers could have been based in.

The skeletons are creepily well preserved because of the dry conditions and some even have soft tissue and hair.

Around 21% of the skeletons also showed evidence of “interpersonal violence”.

This includes skull holes and fractures that would have caused extreme pain.

Around 10% likely died from lethal blows.

Weapons like maces, sticks and arrows could have caused the trauma.

The researchers write: “Some individuals exhibited severe high impact fractures of the cranium that caused massive destruction of the face and neurocranium, with craniofacial disjunction and outflow of brain mass.”

The fights could have been over land, water and resources.

The full study findings can be found in the Journal of Anthropological Archaeology.

The farmers could have been fighting over land and resources
194 skeletons were studied for the research

In other archaeology news, a ship that sank after it was hit by gigantic stone blocks following an earthquake 2,200 years ago has been found in Egypt.

A new analysis of the remains of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh has revealed he may have been brutally murdered on the battlefield.

And, human skeletons have been discovered on a 1717 pirate shipwreck just off the coast of Cape Cod in the US.

Modern crocodile’s ‘grandfather,’ 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil

Modern crocodile’s ‘grandfather,’ 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil

A 150-million-year-old fossilized skeleton discovered in the mountains of southern Chile was determined to be the ancestor of the modern crocodile, the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences announced on Friday.

Fossilized bones of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis are pictured, in Buenos Aires

The species, named Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, was found in 2014 in an Andean fossil deposit near the Patagonian town of Mallin Grande by Argentine and Chilean researchers. Since then it has been analyzed at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences (MACN) in Buenos Aires.

The specimen is a “grandfather” of current crocodiles and should allow scientists to understand how they evolved, the museum said.

Technicians Marcelo Isasi, Marcela Milani, and palaeontologist Nicolas Chimento work on the excavation of pieces of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis, in the Aysen region of Chilean Patagonia

Scientists believe the fossil will help them understand how these reptiles went from being terrestrial to aquatic. Along with other fossils, the discovery supports the idea that South America was the cradle of evolution for crocodiles.

About 200 million years ago “crocodiles were smaller and did not live in water. Palaeontologists always wanted to know what that transition was like,” Federico Agnolin, who found the specimen, told Reuters.

“What Burkesuchus shows is a series of unique traits, which no other crocodile has because they were the first that began to get into the water, into freshwater,” Agnolin said.

Modern crocodile's 'grandfather,' 150 million years old, discovered in Chile fossil
Palaeontologist Fernando Novas holds the fossil skull of the Burkesuchus mallingrandensis

According to the MACN, crocodiles appeared at the beginning of the Jurassic period, around the time of the first dinosaurs.

In a few million years they got into the water, thanks to the existence of warm and shallow seas. South America is known for its richness in marine crocodile fossils.

Mummified Parrots Found In The Atacama Desert Transported Hundreds Of Miles While Alive

Mummified Parrots Found In The Atacama Desert Transported Hundreds Of Miles While Alive

The more we delve into Chile’s desolate Atacama Desert, the more we discover, Phenomena both mystifying and wonderful, occasionally bordering on alien. But in this incredibly dry place, it wasn’t just the climate that was unforgiving. Its ancient human inhabitants, making do in a parched place not best suited to hosting them, traded in whatever they could get their hands on.

Sometimes, it seems, that was the brilliant feathers of colourful birds brought unceremoniously to a desert they didn’t belong to, but were destined to be buried within. What we consider acceptable interactions with animals under our care was very different back then, says anthropological archaeologist Jose Capriles from Pennsylvania State University.

“Some of these birds did not live a happy life. They were kept to produce feathers and their feathers were plucked out as soon as they grew in.” Capriles is something of a specialist when it comes to discovering the exotic oddities of pre-Columbian American culture.

This is how the mummified macaws would’ve looked when they were alive.

This time, his mother – Eliana Flores Bedregal, an ornithologist by profession – came along for the ride, co-authoring a new study examining the life and death of over two-dozen mummified and partially mummified parrots found within the Atacama Desert.

In total, at least six species of parrots originally recovered from five of the desert’s archaeological sites were studied in the research, with the remains variously dating from between 1100 to 1450 CE.

Mummified Parrots Found In The Atacama Desert Transported Hundreds Of Miles While Alive
Researchers identified a mummified Blue-Fronted Amazon parrot, recovered from an ancient cemetery in the Atacama Desert.

“The feathers of tropical birds were one of the most significant symbols of economic, social, and sacred status in the pre-Columbian Americas,” the authors write in their study.

In the Andes, finely produced clothing and textiles containing multicoloured feathers of tropical parrots materialized power, prestige, and distinction and were particularly prized by political and religious elites. Behind the folds of this marvellous drapery, the colourful birds likely lived a miserable existence in captivity, far from the Amazonian rainforests that were once their home.

Sometimes, the feathers were plucked elsewhere and imported into the Andes in special containers, but the remains of the 27 parrots and macaws analyzed here suggest many other birds were specifically brought to the desert for their vibrant plumage.

The feather trade in the region dates back much longer than this, at least to the Chinchorro mummies of around 5050 BCE. Thousands of years later, feathers were still a cherished feature used in garments, hats, headdresses, and other ornaments.

Most of the mummified birds examined in the new study were originally recovered from an archaeological site called Pica 8, located close to an oasis community within the Atacama Desert that still exists today.

Mummified scarlet macaw.

Once upon a time, though, the people here buried their birds alongside themselves.

“Most birds were placed in direct association with human burials,” the researchers write, noting the parrots’ tails were often removed.

Sometimes the animals were positioned in elaborate stances, with beaks opened and tongues sticking out, perhaps tied to ritualistic practices invoking parrots’ ability to mimic human speech. Others had their wings spread as if to forever soar in the afterlife.

During their life on Earth, it seems many had their wings broken and their feet strapped, although the researchers also observe care was taken with some of the animals, with evidence of clipping of their beaks and claws, in addition to healing processes for fractures sustained by the parrots.

“We have absolutely no idea why they were mummified like this,” Capriles says.

“They seem to be eviscerated through their cloaca (a common excretory and reproductive opening), which helped to preserve them. Many times, they were wrapped in textiles or bags.”

What is certain is that it can’t have been easy to get these grounded birds to the desert. Transported by llama caravans, it’s likely the journey from the Amazon would have taken months, the researchers think, although it’s possible some of the birds were procured from regions closer to the desert.

Once there, they were held as valuable pets, treasured for their wondrous palette of feathers, with each enticing shade certain to be stolen.

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime

Climate change is converting the world’s oldest mummies into black slime, which were buried more than 7,000 years ago in the arid desert of northern Chile. Increasing humidity has been observed to cause an outbreak of bacteria living on the preserved skin of Chinchorro mummies, according to scientists.

The Oldest Mummies in The World Are Turning Into Black Slime
The preserved skin on the outside of Chinchorro mummies in Arica, northern Chile, have begun to rapidly degrade as bacteria and humid air is turning it into black slime, as can be seen in the photograph above

The bacteria then feeds on the ancient skin, causing it to break down into black slime. Researchers say that rising humidity levels in Arica, Chile, is putting the 120 Chinchorro mummies at the University of Tarapacá’s archaeological museum at risk.

However, they warn that hundreds of other mummies buried just beneath the sandy surface in the valleys throughout the region are also under threat. Professor Marcela Sepulveda, an archaeologist at the University of Tarapacá, said: ‘In the last 10 years, the process has accelerated.

‘It is very important to get more information about what’s causing this and to get the university and national government to do what’s necessary to preserve the Chinchorro mummies for the future.’

The Chinchorro mummies are in some cases nearly 4,000 years older than those found preserved from ancient Egypt. The oldest mummy discovered in the Atacama desert dates to 7020BC while the oldest in Egypt dates to 3,000BC.

However, the practice of preserving the dead with mummification became popular among the Chinchoro around 5,000 BC, with children and babies often being the most elaborately preserved. The Chinchorro were prehistoric people who lived in scattered communities and used fishing to help them survive on the desert coast of Chile and Peru.

It is thought they began preserving their dead though mummification as part of a religious act designed to bridge the world between the living and the dead.

An estimated 282 mummies have now been recovered from the dry, sandy soil in the region, but scientists say there could be hundreds more buried there.

Preserved corpses are often found as the shifting sand exposes their bodies. Arica and the surrounding Atacama Desert is one of the driest places in the world and the town receives less than 0.02 inches of rain a year.

The skin on the head of this Chinchorro mummy at the San Miguel de Azapa Museum in Arica, Chile has begun to break down due to the damage being caused by bacteria growing as humidity in the area increases.

It is this dry climate that has helped preserve the mummies for more than 7,000 years. However, the region has been growing slowly damper in recent years.

Scientists at the University of Tarapacá museum first noticed black slimy patches appearing on the preserved skin of the Chinchorro mummies around ten years ago.

As time has gone on they have degraded at ‘an alarming rate’ as the preserved skin has broken down into black slime.

Researchers at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences have now conducted a series of tests to find out what was causing the degradation. They found that bacteria normally found growing on the human skin appeared to become ‘supercharged’ when placed on mummy skin in high humidity.

They found that mummies need to be kept at between 40 per cent and 60 per cent humidity to prevent degradation from occurring. If the humidity falls below this level, acidification could also damage the mummies.

Some of the Chinchorro mummies, like the one above buried in a coffin made from reeds, show highly sophisticated preservation thousands of years before mummification began to be used in ancient Egypt

Museum staff are now fine-tuning the temperature and humidity to help preserve the mummies in their extensive collection. Professor Ralph Mitchell, a biologist at Harvard who led the work, said: ‘We knew the mummies were degrading but nobody understood why.

‘This kind of degradation has never been studied before.

‘With many diseases we encounter, the microbe is in our body, to begin with, but when the environment changes it becomes an opportunist.’

Professor Mitchell and his colleagues are now keen to find ways to help protect the mummies still preserved out in the desert.

“Alien” skeleton found in Chile actually human fetus with a rare bone disorder

“Alien” skeleton found in Chile actually human fetus with a rare bone disorder

Alien? Alien? Primate Subhuman? Reluctant child? Fetus mummified? The Internet shakes at the nature of “Ata,” a bizarre 6-inch skeleton used in a recent UFO documentary. A Stanford University scientist who boldly entered the fray has now put to rest doubts about what species Ata belongs to. But the mystery is not over.

The story began 10 years ago when the diminutive remains were reportedly found in a pouch in a ghost town in the Atacama Desert of Chile. Ata ended up in a private collection in Barcelona; producers of the film Sirius latched onto the bizarre mummy as evidence of alien life.

Last fall, immunologist Garry Nolan, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Proteomics Center for Systems Immunology at Stanford in California, heard about Ata from a friend and contacted the filmmakers, offering to give them a scientific readout on the specimen. They asked him to give it a shot.

Among the apparent abnormalities, Ata sports 10 ribs instead of the usual 12 and a severely misshapen skull. “I asked our neonatal care unit how you would go about analyzing it. Had they seen this kind of syndrome before?” Nolan says. He was directed to pediatric radiologist Ralph Lachman, co-director of the International Skeletal Dysplasia Registry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.

“He literally wrote the book on pediatric bone disorders,” Nolan says. Lachman was blown away, Nolan recalls: “He said, ‘Wow, this is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.’ “

To study the specimen, Nolan sought clues in Ata’s genome. He initially presumed the specimen was tens or hundreds of thousands of years old—the Atacama Desert may be the driest spot on the planet, so Ata could have been preserved for aeons.

He consulted experts who had extracted DNA from bones of the Denisovans, an Asian relative of European Stone Age Neandertals. It turned out that their protocols weren’t necessary. “The DNA was modern, abundant, and high quality,” he says, indicating that the specimen is probably a few decades old.

To the chagrin of UFO hunters, Ata is decidedly of this world. After mapping more than 500 million reads to a reference human genome, equating to 17.7-fold coverage of the genome, Nolan concluded that Ata “is human, there’s no doubt about it.” Moreover, the specimen’s B2 haplotype—a category of mitochondrial DNA—reveals that its mother was from the west coast of South America: Chile, that is.

Meanwhile, after examining x-rays, Lachman concluded that Aka’s skeletal development, based on the density of the epiphyseal plates of the knees (growth plates at the end of long bones found only in children), surprisingly appears to be equivalent to that of a 6- to 8-year-old child. If that holds up, there are two possibilities, Nolan says. One, a long shot, is that Ata had a severe form of dwarfism, was actually born as a tiny human, and lived until that calendar age.

X-rays show that Ata is no hoax, but its DNA will disappoint UFO buffs.

To test that hypothesis, he will try to extract haemoglobin from the specimen’s bone marrow and compare the relative amounts of fetal versus adult haemoglobin proteins.

The second possibility is that Ata, the size of a 22-week-old fetus, suffered from a severe form of the rare rapid ageing disease, progeria, and died in the womb or after premature birth.

Nolan hasn’t yet turned up hits for genes known to be associated with progeria or dwarfism. He’s stepping up the search for mutations through additional sequencing and casting a wider net.

Another possibility is a teratogen: a birth defect-inducing toxicant along the lines of thalidomide. Nolan plans to analyze tissue using mass spectrometry to look for toxicants or metabolites. But reports of a handful of other Tom Thumb-sized skeletons from Russia and elsewhere have Nolan leaning toward a genetic explanation.

At least one expert has a more prosaic take—but agrees that the specimen is human. “This looks to me like a badly desiccated and mummified human fetus or premature stillbirth,” says William Jungers, a paleoanthropologist and anatomist at Stony Brook University Medical Center in New York.

He notes that “barely ossified and immature elements” of the hands and feet, and the wide-open metopic suture, where the two frontal bones of the skull come together down the middle of the forehead.

“Genetic anomalies are not evident, probably because there aren’t any,” he says. Nolan responds that the rib number and epiphyseal plate densities remain a riddle; while he is open to the fetus hypothesis, he thinks that the jury is still out.

Nolan’s analysis went viral; besieged as he has been by the media circus, he doesn’t regret having gotten involved in debunking a claim of alien life. “I’m thrilled with the outcome,” he says.

Once the analyses are complete, he says, he’ll submit his findings for peer review. The other claim Nolan debunks is that Ata is an elaborate hoax. The x-rays clearly show these are real bones, complete with arterial shadows, he says. “You just couldn’t fake it,” he says, adding, with a laugh, “unless you were an alien.”

Four Mummies Discovered in Chile

Four Mummies Discovered in Chile

Reuters reports that four mummies wearing colourful turbans and sandals were discovered in northern Chile’s Quebrada Blanca copper mine.

The mummies, which had been buried in graves, are thought to date between 1100 and 400 B.C.

The remains of four mummified humans dressed in bright colours and buried in formal graves have been uncovered during work to expand the Quebrada Blanca copper mine in the north of Chile, the mine’s operators said on Friday.

The remains were found last year during excavations for a new port and could date back to Mesoamerica’s Early Formative Period that ran between around 1,100 and 400 BC, Canada’s Teck said.

The company said the mummies, wearing sophisticated turbans and sandals, had been perfectly preserved in the arid climate. Tests are now being run on them to determine their precise age.

“As a result of the saline conditions of the soil, the lack of rainfall and relatively low humidity, the remains are mummified in complete outfits and with a number of implements that indicate their way of life,” it said in a statement.

Ancient kitchen areas and living rooms, as well as items including ornaments, baskets, mats and hunting items, were also identified, Teck said.

The company has reported the find to the Chilean government, which will determine how to preserve the artefacts, described by archaeologist Mauricio Uribe as “one of the most remarkable finds of recent years in the Norte Grande region.”

Teck said it would preserve the area and maintain archaeological monitoring during the remainder of the project, which seeks to extend the mine’s useful life by almost 30 years.

To read about mummies found in the Chilean desert that date as far back as 5000 B.C., go to “Atacama’s Decaying Mummies.”

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

Waves Over Centuries Has Carved this Marble Cave into Stunning Shapes and Swirling Patterns

The Cuevas de Mármol is situated on a strong marble island on the edge of the General Correra Lake on the Patagonian Andes, an outlying glacial lake that stretches across the border between Chile and Argentina.

Dubbed as the most beautiful cave network in the world, Cuevas de Marmol (Marble Caves) is a 6,000-year-old sculpture hewn by the crashing waves of Lake General Carrera of Patagonia in Southern Chile.

Also called the Marble Cathedral, the intricate caverns are part of a peninsula made of solid marble surrounded by the glacial Lake General Carrera that spans the Chile-Argentina border.

The swirling pattern on the cave interiors is a reflection of the lake’s azure waters, which change depending on the water levels dictated by weather and season.

Visitors are enamored by the Marble Cave’s unique ability to constantly change its appearance.

In early spring, the shallow waters are turquoise and create a crystalline shimmer against the caves’ swirling walls. Come summer, the water levels increase and create a deep blue hue which gives the cave a unique unearthly shade.

The water levels are significantly affected by the freezing and melting of the surrounding glaciers. It’s also from these glaciers where the lake takes the fine silt sediments that rest on the lake bed.

To get to the caves, one must embark on a long and difficult journey starting from a flight to the Chilean capital of Santiago. Visitors must then travel 800 miles on major highways to the next big city Coyhaique, followed by a 200-mile drive on rough dirt roads towards the lake.

Located far from any road, the caves are accessible only by boat. Thirty-minute tours are operated by a local company, weather and water conditions permitting.

The best time of the year to visit the Marble Caves is roughly between September and February when the ice melts feeding the lake and the color of the water is particularly enchanting turquoise.

In terms of hours, the best time to take a boat tour is early morning to catch the right lighting for great pictures.

Finally, a boat is needed to access the caves. But though the journey is long and challenging, many agree the enchanting beauty of the caves is definitely worth the effort.

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years

This illustration shows how the ancient footprint may have been made about 15,600 years ago in what is now Chile.
This illustration shows how the ancient footprint may have been made about 15,600 years ago in what is now Chile.

The earliest recorded human footprint in the Americas was not found in Canada, the United States, or even Mexico; it was found much further south, in Chile, and a new study finds it dates back to an amazing 15,600 years ago.

The finding sheds light on when humans first reached the Americas, probably by traveling in the midst of the last ice age across the Bering Strait Land Bridge.

This 10.2-inch-long (26 centimeters) print might even be evidence of pre-Clovis people in South America, the group that came before the Clovis, which are known for their distinctive spearheads, the researchers said.

The find suggests that pre-Clovis people were in northern Patagonia (a region of South America) for some time, as the footprint is older than archaeological evidence from Chile’s Monte Verde, a site about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south containing artifacts that are at least 14,500 years old. 

Vertebrate paleontologist Leonora Salvadores discovered the footprint in December 2010, when she was an undergraduate student at the Austral University of Chile.

At the time, Salvadores and her fellow students were investigating a well-known archaeological site known as Pilauco, which is about 500 miles (820 km) south of Santiago, Chile.

Earliest Ever Human Footprint in the Americas Discovered, Dating Back 15,600 Years
This footprint is about 15,600 years old.

However, it took years for study lead researcher and paleontologist Karen Moreno and study lead investigator and geologist Mario Pino, both at the Austral University of Chile, to verify that the print was human, radiocarbon date it (they tested six different organic remnants found at that layer to be sure) and determine how it was made by a barefoot adult.

Part of these tests involved walking through similar sediment to see what kinds of tracks got left behind. These experiments revealed that the ancient human likely weighed about 155 lbs. (70 kilograms) and that the soil was quite wet and sticky when the print was made.

It appears that a clump of this sticky dirt clung to the person’s toes and then fell into the print when the foot was lifted, as the image below suggests.

This sequence shows how the footprint may have been made.

This sequence shows how the footprint may have been made.

The footprint is classified as a type called Hominipes modernus, a footprint usually made by Homo sapiens, the researchers said. (Just like species, trace fossils, such as footprints, receive scientific names.)

Previous excavations at the site revealed other late Pleistocene fossils, including the bones of elephant relatives, llama relatives and ancient horses, as well as rocks that humans may have used as tools, the researchers said.

The study “adds to a growing body of fossil and archaeological evidence suggesting that humans dispersed throughout the Americas earlier than many people have previously thought,” said Kevin Hatala, an assistant professor of biology at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who was not involved with the study.

This find comes a mere year after the discovery of the oldest known human footprints in North America, which date to 13,000 years ago, Hatala noted.

It would be nice to have more data from the Chile site — “more footprints, more artifacts, more skeletal material and so on,”  But unfortunately, the fossil and archaeological records are never as generous as we’d like! With just a single human footprint to work with, the authors extracted as much information as they could.

When we look at this evidence in the context of other data, it makes a strong case for the antiquity of [the] human presence in Patagonia.”The footprint is now preserved in a glass box and is housed at the recently established Pleistocene Museum in the city of Osorno, Chile.