Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Arid North > Azapa

Beliefs and funeral rites

The Azapa people abandoned the ancient techniques of artificial mummification practiced by the older Chinchorro communities, and buried their dead in oval-shaped graves, which they covered with mats, layers of plants and sand, sometimes using sticks implanted as grave markers. They laid the bodies on their sides, wrapped in blankets, with heads turbaned, although some bodies were deposited without heads altogether. Alongside them they left a variety of grave goods that gives an indication of the range of objects these people manufactured. It is at this time that the first evidence of hallucinogenic plant consumption appears, reflecting the beginnings of an ideology in which shaman —religious experts able to communicate with the supernatural world by entering into a state of trace—would figure prominently.