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Mummification in Other Parts of the World

Outside Egypt, in such widely separated places as the Aleutian Islands, the Canary Islands, China, and the countries now composing what was the Inca civilization, bodies preserved by various artificial means have been found. The venerated mummies of the Inca kings were destroyed by the Spanish. The Chinchoros culture of the N Chilean coast practiced artificial mummification around 5000–3000 B.C., and around 4000 B.C., corpses were deliberately salted at La Paloma, in central Peru. Pre-Columbian burials on the arid coast of Peru and Chile, often wrapped in textiles, tended to become naturally mummified. In the late 1990s a cache of late prehistoric mummies of the Chachapoyas culture was found in a rock shelter in humid NE Peru. In 1974 in the Changsha area of China, an embalmed woman, later identified as a matron of the Han dynasty, was disinterred, along with many artifacts, from an air- and watertight tomb, in a remarkably well-preserved state. In Xinjiang (Chinese Turkistan), other exceptionally well-preserved mummies, dating back as far as 4,000 years and having European features, have posed a mystery to anthropolgists; some believe they may be Tokharians, members of a so-called lost tribe of Indo-Europeans known from later inscriptions.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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