• 18 September 2019

Chinchorro Mummies on the North of Chile and Easter Island

Chinchorro Mummies on the North of Chile and Easter Island

Chinchorro Mummies on the North of Chile and Easter Island 1024 683 Gürkan Genç

After a long ascent, I arrived at the border gate and entering the building I saw it was crowded with people from two busses. A classic at the Chilean border gates. As I have mentioned before all the belongings are X-ray checked. As it was my turn, I also was asked to put my panniers into the X-ray device. I removed all panniers from my bike and emptied them. As all the process was over an officer came to me:

  • Where is your bicycle serial number written?
  • This bike doesn’t have a seral number
  • But it must have. Every bicycle has a serial number!
  • No, this hasn’t
  • We must record bicycle serial number on the documents. Otherwise, we cannot let your bicycle in.
  • Look in my passport and check how many times I have entered your country with my bicycle. If not, there are photos on my webpage and social media accounts taken in your country with my bicycle! This will be the last entrance in your country with my bicycle. I’ll ride to the coast and then to Peru. As I said before my bicycle doesn’t have a serial number. This is a special produced bicycle. The name on the passport and on the frame is the same.

Sometimes such problems arise due to such simple issues and the officer has a blond moment. Then after all the process slows down or they make things difficult for no reason. Then, two other female officers came over. One of them asked me for how many days I was intending to stay. I replied two weeks and then leave the country. They said alright and let me in.

I slowly started to descend from this border gate located at 4666 m altitude. You think after arriving the summit, passing to the other side that you’ll immediately start to descend but this is one of the passes where the descent doesn’t start soon after. There are more than 170 km’s to ride till to the coast. From the map, it seems that I’ll first descend to a valley. Let’s see whether I’ll arrive in Putre before sun set?

I had mentioned that I’ll visit north of Chile before but didn’t share its reason!

This goes back to the visit I made to Easter Island in September 2018. How I toured the Island and my observations is written in my article “My road memmories on Easter Island”. Well, if you haven’t read that article yet, I’ll advise you just to pause here and read that article first.

Since I toured the Island by all means, – walking, riding on bike and driving -, I had the opportunity to closely examine many Moai’s on the Island and made my remarks about these Moai’s. Some Moai’s were different than the others on the Island for some reason. Only one of them caught my attention. That is, rather the 7 Moai statues standing on a single Ahu. As many other Moai’s and Ahu’s those also had undergone restoration.

The reason why those 7 statues differ from the others is that they are the only statutes that look at the sea of the whole Island which are called Ahu Akivi. These Moai statues are found on the west coast of the Island standing next to each other with their faces towards west. According to the information I gathered from the regional guides and from the scientific papers I’ve read, the reason why they were looking at the sea was the belief that the pioneers came from the west to the Island. Therefore, these Moai’s were looking at the motherland. The inhabitants of the Island call themselves as Polynesian and say the first king on the Island came from the west. I had written in my previous Easter Island article in detail that those sayings were completely mythological. That is, there are only hypotheses and mythological stories about the origins the people and how they had come to this Island.

It is what I’m always doing while visiting antique cities. I sit down at a nice place, put on my headphones and close my eyes. Especially in such areas I try to go back to the past listening to my favorite music. I dream about how the people were living, what they were doing. I dream as if I have third eye which leaves my body and moves around just like drone shooting the ancient place and the people living there.

I touch the stones and try to feel and live the moment merging in the smells around, the noises, the voices of the birds and the music I’m listening. Exactly as it happens in the game Fantasy Role Playing. As a Dungeon master I write and play the scenario with all the books I have read and my own life experiences. That is, it may be better to say that I shoot a featurette in my inner world. Especially, the ones who played Fantasy Role Play during their college years would understand what type of an atmosphere I put myself in. I’m doing this for the last 20 years in such places. Salute to all my old college mates.

Again, while I was strolling around and dreaming as such, the view of a statue in Rona Raraku (the place where the Moai statues were carved) the place I had visited an hour ago came in front of my eyes. At that moment my eyes opened widely.

  • Hey! On the back of these statutes there were petroglyphs. Do all have such petroglyphs?

I stood up and walked to check the back of these Moai’s. Hmmm.. There aren’t any. I walked back to the front of the statue. The areas where restoration works were done are the bottom parts of the stones. Those stones had fallen on their face in time due to erosion. The petroglyphs, if present, must have been eroded within years. I went to an officer around:

  • Beg me pardon. Were there any petroglyphs on the backs of these statues?
  • Yes, but they were all eroded due to rain, sun, wind throughout the years.

With a big smile on my face, I immediately opened Google map. I was looking at the shape of the Island on the map. Why are they looking to the west? There isn’t such stonemasonry on the Polynesia Islands and neither on close islands. There isn’t such stonemasonry in Australian and Japan history. I took a screenshot of map and drew a straight line from the coordinates of the back of the statue in the middle to the east of the Island. Wowww. Dude, exactly through the middle of the Island? There isn’t any coastal line with 90 degrees angle on the Island, just the one at the east which the backs of the Moai statues point. I got into car to see the Moai statues on the east of the Island. I realized that the line I drew was passing exactly through the middle of the two Ahu’s in that area. I guess this wouldn’t be a coincidence.

When the Ahu Akivi statues are introduced to visitors, it is said that they are the only Moai group at coast of the Island which were looking at the sea. To me, they are the only Maoi group sending a message to the mainland through the petroglyphs carved on their back and not only looking at the sea. The backs of the Moai statues on the eastern coast were also turned to the seaside but there weren’t petroglyphs on the back of any of the Moai’s

  • Hi Enes, what are doing?
  • Busy, working.
  • May it be easy Enes. I have a request from you. You know that I’m currently on the Island. On this Island there are Ahu Akivi statues. Can you check where the line you’ll draw from the middle of those statues will coincide on the mainland and have a look what there is within a 100 km square area?
  • What are we looking for?
  • Ruins, antique remnants, I’m conducting a small research about the origins of the inhabitants of the Island.

After an hour Enes having researched 50 km north and south of the line:


  • Gurkan those statues are dividing the island into two equal halves. On top of it, as you told me the line goes exactly through the middle of the level area at the east of the Island with 90 degrees angle. This is the point where the line goes through, taking into account the slope of the Earth, but we won’t be able to exactly place the center line which has changed during hundreds of years. This is more or less the range. A place called Trapaca Giant in Chile. Did you already visit it?

  • What’s that?
  • Go and have a look if you want. This is what I have found within the region you wanted me to research. Weird.
  • What the fuck… Looks like Nasca lines but isn’t.

Though I have been riding in Chile for such a long time, nobody had ever told me about this place. On top of it, when I asked about this place to my Chilean friends (and they were people with certain cultural background and income traveling a lot), it surprised me that nobody knew this place.


  • There are potential areas for settlements in this region besides this, but you won’t recognize them from the satellite views. You may go there to check it out. You know when we see from close distance, we put forward different ideas. Also you must examine the flora, the geography of that area.
  • Alright then. There had been an antique settlement or even a civilization at the place where the line coincides on the mainland. I believe that these statues were sending a message to the mainland. Those Moai’s had turned their back on to the mainland, maybe they were angry due to an occasion or may wanted to express their esteem to the mainland.
  • You are right, it is possible. While researching I looked at the geographical conditions around that area and enjoyed a lot. Let’s see what you will find out.
  • I’ll ride to this area from Bolivia. Thank you Enes.


In short this was the story behind my decision to ride to the north of Chile once again. I gathered nice information upon my researches on this subject. Therefore, I started to ride in Chile once more. Not towards Trapaca Giant as Enes told me to go but I decided to ride to a more important place.

The scenes after the border pass were breathtaking. I had my lunch at Chungara Lake at 4550 m altitude situated next to a 6348 m high volcano Parinacota and observed the birds on the lake. Although there are volcanic stones in this region the ancient inhabitants were not interested in stonemasonry as the people on Eatern Island, Tiwanaku Bolivia or like the Incas.

The upper photo shows the stonemasonry in Peru at 1300 A.D. The lower photo shows the walls subjected to erosion built at 1100 A.D. in the Easter Island

and lastly the temple wall in Tiwanaku in Bolivia built 560 A.D. This region is where stonemasonry orginated.

The first place where such stonemasonry was seen in South America was Tiwanaku Empire. Let me remind that, this is a period before the Inca Empire. I wonder if there were any people inhabiting this high-altitude area. Well, it may not possible to farm but stockbreeding. I didn’t see any signboard along the road. Some areas just resembled some spots on the Easter Island. At least there must have been something here I thought but didn’t come up to any signboards.

Arica road

Easter Island

Descending towards the Pacific coast, familiar sceneries started to catch my eyes. Stopping at every nice scenery, I won’t be not able to advance. This road made me say “Dude, what a road this is” An awesome road with up and downs between 4000 and 4500 m altitude. Also riding against wind in Altiplano for 30 km adds up but you are on such a spectacular road that you just keep on riding. A German couple stopped their car:

  • We thought to invite you into the car, but you seem crazy enough to ride at such wind. We are sure you’ll arrive in Putre this evening. If you need water, food, snacks or whatever we can offer. Hats off to you. It requires a tremendous determination to complete this road.
  • Thank you very much. We might see each other in Putre. If you have some water, I would appreciate.


P.S.: If you happen to come upon a cyclist give him/her some water. He/she will appreciate even he/she might have water.


They mentioned the name of the hotel they were staying at and continued. I got so tired. If such ups and down are continuing, I won’t be able to arrive in Putre, no way. I need to find a place, a place protected from the wind to put up my tent.


While riding towards the direction of sun set, I started to descend after a while. I look at the topographic map displayed on Garmin GPS for the last time. If there aren’t any climbs and I would only descent for 1500 m, I’ll manage to arrive in Putre. Then, I let my bike go down the slope, I was advancing on an asphalt road through a wonderful valley. I was struggling between keeping my eyes on the road and watching the amazing scenery. What a nice feeling. It looks as if the rocks were first carved by a sculptor and then a painter colored them. Impossible to put into words. Awesome S Curves are descending into the valley and the color of the nature changes with the sun set resulting in an amazing visual show. This is not such a place where I can freeze the moment with my camera or drone. I just bend over my bike merging with it and ride down on the S shaped curves. A wonderful nature.


Where I stopped for a short break, I saw a small information shed giving some information about the national parks in Chile. What if I put up my tent behind this shed? Taking off my bandana and gloves, I realized a noise coming from inside the shed. I didn’t think that someone would be there at this time. I knocked the door and a young man opened.


  • Hello
  • Hello
  • Beg me pardon may I ask you something? Do you mind if I put my tent at the back of this shed? I really got very tired.
  • No, but Putre is very close and you only need to ride downhill. There is a hostel owned by a cyclist who has traveled through South America. You can go there and he would make a discount for you.
  • These are good news. Thank you. I have a couple of questions related to this area. I know that there were communities living in the South before Inca period but weren’t there any in this region. Some areas are resembling the living areas on the Easter Island. There must have been some people settled in this area, but I didn’t see any signboards.
  • Are you an archeologist?
  • No, I’m just a traveler. Why did you ask?
  • You are right. Evidence related to life before Inca period and even many artifacts have been found in this area which are exhibited in the museum in Arica. Two of our professors from the University are researching on a possible connection between this place and the Easter Island but there no dissertations related to this subject yet. How did you come to this conclusion?
  • I just found out some small details, that’s it. Not so important.


Flying to Easter Island and accommodation for conducting research is very expensive. Even for Chilean researches this makes a huge amount. Even though, it is a high possibility to find a connection between mainland and the Island, economical situations are predominating. Also, for me it was hard to budget the trip to Easter Island.

Since I’m close to Putre, let’s continue riding. But I would advise to cyclists or motorcyclists to ride during day time, especially the last 15 km before Putre. It has a magic valley scenery and an awesome descent. Since it was getting dark, I could catch this visual show only for a short time.

The town Putre is a small and a quite tidy town situated in the middle of the valley. Maybe, it looked to me tidy and clean after leaving Bolivia.

A pretty quiet town but at the same time a popular destination for foreigners surrounded with mountain roads belonging to the period of Incas and even before Incas. I was informed at the Pachamama Hostel where I stayed that it was a common destination of trekkers. I met Santiago from Buenos Aires who was traveling through South America dividing into parts on bike for a long time at the hostel. He was also coming from Peru. He was telling us how hard the route showing photos of snow covered roads. While looking at those photos, I lost myself in thoughts of memories. I listened quietly to the talks, to the talks about what they had undergone, to their life adventures. Then I went to my room and slept. Well, by the way, I had arrived in this town after darkness but a warm shower, nice dinner, talking with travelers, a good room price and a warm bed made me feel good. My neck and waist were aching after sleeping on my damaged mattress feeling all the hardness of the ground for days.

The next day I was expecting that I would descent till the coast, but it didn’t happen like that. The road took me from 3500 to 4100 m altitude and then started to descend. On the road the shape of the valley, the vegetation showed such a huge variety within an astonishingly short time, unbelievable. In Putre, I entered all of a sudden a desert like environment from the snows on the summits, from the meadow land, from the violet colored flowers sprouting among rocks.

Then an oasis like scene had appeared stretching for kilometers formed by alluvial deposits in the middle of desert. In the middle of huge dunes there was an incredibly huge farming land. I saw olive, banana, orange, tangerine trees and various kinds of vegetables in this area. The taste of the tangerines was so delicious.

Then a stela appeared on which symbols belonging to a period before Inca were carved and I read articles mentioning that people were practicing farming in this area as in the present. Well, data on this subject are getting accumulated. I couldn’t arrive in Arica also today and camped at the backyard of a church in a small village asking for permission. This will be the last night sleeping on my damaged mattress.

I won’t stay at a hostel or at someone’s house I could find in internet in Arica. I’ll be hosted by the parents of the ex-husband of my Chilean friend Vicky from Valpareso. Some kind of a weird situation, but it was the house of the sweetest couple I was hosted in Chile. Luis and Euguina hosted me so well. Dishes, a city sightseeing tour, a museum visit, everything was awesome. I had mentioned in my previous article that I had to return to Santiago to replace my damaged mattress. During this time my bike was to be stored in the house of this sweet couple.

The beach of the town Arica astonished me. I didn’t expect to see a place resembling Mediterranean beaches at the Chilean coast. There isn’t an intense bicycle lane network in this town as in the other cities of Chile. In fact, there are almost no bike lanes. It is impossible to see high buildings in the towns. I entered the town in the morning hours. While I was heading towards the city center my cell phone started to ring. “It is impossible” I thought at first, because I always silence my phone. I took my phone to look what the hell was happening. “Tsunami alarm” was displaying on the screen!!!????? I stopped and took my glasses off to read once again. At the same time the sirens of the town started to sound. Dude, a tsunami!? Reading the message once again carefully, I realized that this was a trial message and precautions were taken in case of a tsunami disaster throughout the town. Well, for a second I thought “tough shit”. I just entered the town to face with tsunami. Good that everything is fine. I came upon to similar situations in Japan.

Luis took me to the museum outside the city center which I wanted to see on the second day of my stay in their house. Let me tell about the specialty of this museum: This was the museum which made me come to the north of Chile and to choose this route.

Chinchorro mummies at the University of Tarapaca’s museum. When we mention about mummification techniquesand mummies we all think about ancient Egypt. Carbon analysis techniques showed that the oldest mummies found in Egypt date back to 2500-2000 B.C. The mummification technique used in ancient Egypt is called artificial mummification. It is possible to find mummies formed by nature both in Egypt and in South America (due to natural conditions). While the artificial mummies date back to 2500-2000 in ancient Egypt the Chinchorro mummies in Arica, Chile date back to 7020-2000 B.C. Well, 7020 B.C.

Well, forget about the mummification techniques we know. The oldest mummy’s name is Acha child. For example, I knew that the internal organs were removed at ancient Egyptian mummification techniques. This is also valid for these ones (that is artificial mummification). But here, after removal of internal organs, the body was filled with some plants, a special mud mix and wool of several animals. It was proved that the mummification techniques used in Ecuador and Peru during 1800 B.C. was a different technique, a modification of these techniques in time. That is, it seems that the starting point of mummification in South America is this place.

There are 282 mummies dated to approximately to the same period in this museum. Some are exhibited, some are still under research. Most of them are child mummies. The places where the archeologists found them are the highest summits or around the summits of the Andes, especially around the active or extinct volcanos I had passed by. Well, I had mentioned before that there are Inca roads in the mountains, some of those roads were actually the roads used by their ancestors to carry the sacrificed children. I’ll mention about this issue in my next Peru article, the topic of this article is different.

I asked to the museum attendant whether those people were connected to the ones who lived in Eastern Island. Because, in the light of the information in this museum, I learned that the folk living at the coast in that period before Incas were good in fishing and boat construction. Images of the sheds they constructed from the stones and straws both in valleys and at coasts are exhibited in this museum. Those sheds resemble the ones found on Easter Island. The museum attendant directly said: “No, we didn’t make such a connection before. There aren’t any evidences related to this yet.”

I don’t also have palpable evidence, but as mentioned at the beginning of this article the writings carved on the back of the Ahu Akivi stones exactly coincides with this region. Otherwise, I had no idea about the existence of these mummies before. Upon the study we did with Enes and then after the researches and readings I did about this region I came to this area. Well, have any mummies been found in Easter Island yet? No, not. Is there an ancient town or similar dwellings remained at the mainland by the coastal folk (I’m talking from 7000 BC)? No. It seems not possible because the region has sandy soil. Anyway, the stones in Eastern Island were carved at a period AD. There is a gab approximately of 8000 years. By time, after those societies got into contact, the folk at the coast thought fishing, boat construction, sailing to the folk living at mountains and visa versa the mountain folk thought stonemasonry, farming and husbandry. The people who came first to the island in the period BC didn’t know about such stonemasonry. On the other hand, the reason that no mummies were found was that those societies were afraid of or had respect for the souls of the people they sacrificed to gods and didn’t want to be close. The island is small and that there isn’t an ancient cemetery is an interesting detail. There is only one volcano in the island which is very close to the settlements. Most likely, the first inhabitants of the island didn’t want to be close to the dead and found another solution for the corpses of the sacrificed (not cannibalism, although many writings related to this island is about cannibalism. To me it is nonsense, there isn’t such evidence). The mountain folk coming to coast learned navigation and when they came to the island, they carved these stones and did the stonemasonry using their knowledge and experiences. Anyway, at that time period the mummying techniques had changed, or the rituals of sacrifice had changed.

As I have mentioned in my Eastern Island article, I don’t make scientific research but share my experiences and thoughts blending with my knowledge and background accumulated throughout the years. There are only theses about the inhabitants of this island and my opinion sounds like this: The folk of this island came at certain intervals here from Tiwanaku during 900 AD who got into contact with the regional folk at coastal side sharing their culture. Then, built the stones during 1000 AD. This is my opinion.

I left my bicycle in Arica flew back to Santiago. As I had mentioned before, I went to get a new mattress to my old broken one to the nearest dealer in South America.

  • Well, you made me come here 2000 km from above and some of my trip happened on the ground. Why didn’t you send me or give to a friend mine?
  • Gurkan we needed your signature and take the old product back.
  • I could send the old product to my friend and he could bring it to you.
  • Then, you had to order the product on his name. You ordered on your name.
  • Alright, I’m wrong

No need to continue this conversation. Well, since I was already back in Santiago, I stayed about 10 days, met with my friends and then returned to Arica. The next day I thanked Luis and Eugiana for everything and set off. The Peruvian border gate was close to Arica. I started at noon time and after one hour of ride I came to border. Well, continuing my world tour in Peru, the 48th country.

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