Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Semi-arid North > Hunter-gatherers of the Semi-arid North

Beliefs and funeral rites

The burial practices of these hunter-gatherers varied, especially over the long period of time in which they occupied the territory. From the beginning, however, these groups usually buried their dead in some way. Collective graves, probably family groups, were common in the early part of this period. Grave goods were uncommon however, except for some notable exceptions such as discoidal stones that appear not to have been used as tools and therefore may have had a purely ritual function. In graves of the middle Archaic phase, individual graves appear, located in specific areas of encampments. On the coast the dead were covered with piles of seashells, while further inland they were covered with piles of stones. The bodies were often accompanied by “perforated stones” and buried close to piedras tacitas (cup stones), large boulders with multiple hollowed-out cups that were used as collective mortars. Hunter-gatherers of the late Archaic period were buried under piles of gravel, with a circle of stones outlining the grave itself. Offerings of lip adornments (tembetá) and stone pipes also begin to appear in graves attributed to this period.