People ‘finger painted’ the skulls of their ancestors red in the Andes a millennium ago

By | December 23, 2022

Up to a millennium ago, the Chincha people in what is now Peru decorated their ancestors’ remains with red pigment, sometimes finger painting their skulls as part of a ritual intended to give the dead a new kind of social life.

In a new investigation, researchers analyzed hundreds of human remains found in the Chincha Valley of southern Peru. Dating to between AD 1000 and 1825, the skeletal remains they studied were found in more than 100 “chullpas,” large mortuary structures where multiple people were interred together. The team’s goal, detailed in the March 2023 issue of the Journal of Anthropological Archeology (opens in new tab)was to investigate how and why red paint was applied to many of the bones.

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