Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Native peoples > Chono

Beliefs and funerary practices

Little is known about the Chnoos’ cosmovision. Their beliefs are thought to be similar to those of the Huilliche people of Chiloé Island. Regarding rituals, there are references to dances that were performed after the extraction of sea lion oil. Byron also describes a ceremony in which the men groaned and sang until reaching a trance-like state that allowed them to burn themselves with embers from the fire or cut themselves with sharpened seashells. The women followed suit afterwards.

The same author also mentions a possible superstition in which the Chonos avoided throwing seashells into the sea. For example, when they consumed shellfish in the canoe, the shells were collected in the middle of the vessel and dumped onshore later.
The people laid their dead to rest in caves or rocky alcoves, in the fetal position, covered with red paint and wrapped in cypress bark. Some early travelers described the interment of more than six individuals in the same cave, laid out on platforms of criss-crossed trunks.
These bodies were naturally mummified by the cold and dryness of the cave.