These mummified parrots tell about the darker side of our history: Scientists have studied birds more than 3,000 years old to understand more about the lives of the first peoples of South America. They also faced harsh practices in the process.
Today we know very little about the time before the Inca Empire. At that time, various tribes lived in the area that is now known as Chile, Bolivia and Peru. People have even settled in hostile regions like the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.
In a study, researchers Jose Cabriles and Calagero Santoro discovered new indicators of everyday life there. Archaeologists and their team examined 27 animals from five different sites in northern Chile.
Capriles: “Our analysis shows that at that time various types of parrots came to these people from the east over the Andes. For this purpose people used llama caravans. This type of trade reached its peak between 1100 and 1400 BC. There was an exchange. Active among the various peoples of this region. “
The trade zone stretched thousands of kilometers from the Pacific coast to the Amazon. The alleged Pica Tarapaca cultures who lived in the Atacama Desert spoke different languages. They waged wars, but they also exchanged goods. This is what mummified birds say.
“We have made a surprising discovery, which is that birds must feed on corn fertilized with guano. Some places are oases in the middle of the desert. In order to obtain more crops, the inhabitants of these areas have large quantities of llamas with the help of seabirds. The droppings of sea birds were brought from Coast to desert. By doing so, they made the desert soil fertile and more productive. “
The fertile soil in the desert also makes it possible to raise birds. Using the remains of parrots, researchers can show what bird life was like there.
Santoro: “Their lives were miserable. We showed one of our first parrots to the ornithologist and he was very sad when he saw him. The feathers were pulled into the lower feathers, the beak was trimmed and the animal’s feet grew together – so that he couldn’t get away from the stick it was sitting on.”
Then parrots were considered a spiritual symbol, and their feathers were a sign of status. They were embalmed in a complex process and placed in the grave of the most powerful.
However, this does not mean that they have been treated well. According to the researchers, they were often recruited as living feather donors. In order not to harm themselves in monotonous captivity, the beak of intelligent animals was cut short.
Santoro: “At that time, people were managing animals in addition to the products they had. Nothing could be perfect.”
This life that occurred in harmony with nature from 3000 to 4000 years ago is nothing more than a romantic fantasy. One thing is for sure: animal mummies are still our treasures today. From a human perspective at the time, life and death were not separated from each other. Perfect embalming was supposed to save the dead bodies in this world for a long time. Today they are our gateway to a better understanding of the lives of long-forgotten cultures.