named in the 1960s for a beach in Arica where similar mummies had been found), are the oldest examples of mummified human remains, dating to thousands of years before the Egyptian mummies. They are believed to have first appeared around 5000 B.C. and reaching a peak around 3000 B.C. Often Chinchorro mummies were elaborately prepared by removing the internal organs and replacing them with vegetable fibers or animal hair. In some cases an embalmer would remove the skin and flesh from the dead body and replace them with clay. Shell midden and bone chemistry suggest that 90% of their diet was seafood. Many ancient cultures of fisherfolk existed, tucked away in the arid river valleys of the Andes, but the Chinchorro made themselves unique by their dedicated preservation of the dead.
The Chinchorro mummies are significant because during the periods of these mummies, everyone who died was mummified, including children, newborns and fetuses. This shows that it was not reserved for those of high rank or high status - mummification was not a sign of social stratification.