Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Semi-arid North > El Molle

Beliefs and funeral rites

In the Copiapó and Huasco valleys, the El Molle people usually buried their dead in artificial earth and stone mounds encircled by a line of stones. Most of the burial sites contained several individuals and, in some cases, were protected by a foundation of algarrobo wood trunks. The cadavers were buried with metal necklaces and adornments, along with ceramic vessels and stone pipes. Males generally had tembetás (lip ornaments). In the cemeteries of the Elqui and Limarí valleys it was common to find piles of gravel on the bodies or encircling them as tomb markers. The high occurrence of pipes as grave goods suggests a shamanic religion with a complex smoking ritual probably involving hallucinogenic substances. The complex construction and size of these mound cemeteries, some with associated hearths and evidence of camelid sacrifice, points to a high degree of ceremonialism in the funeral rites of the El Molle people.