Research, Technology

Mummies of colorful parrots have been found in the Atacama Desert. What secret are they keeping?

Atacama is a huge desert located on the west coast of South America. Falls there every year less than 50 millimeters of precipitation, therefore this place is considered the driest onthe entire territory of the Earth. Despite the fact that the average air temperature in the desert is 24 degrees Celsius, only cacti and shrubs grow there, and there are very few animals. Scientists have been studying the history of this place for a long time and recently they found out that the ancient inhabitants of these parts were engaged in the cultivation of parrots. Since bright birds did not live in these places, they were brought from the distant forests of the Amazon and kept in terrible conditions. The researchers learned about this from the mummified remains - these birds obviously received a lot of attention. But why were these creatures needed by the inhabitants of the dry desert? Scientists already know the answer.

In ancient times, people tortured parrots quite a lot. But why?

Atacama Desert very dry due to the fact that the Peruvian currentgreatly cools the lower atmosphere and creates conditions that prevent precipitation. Heavy rains have not been observed in this place over the past 400 years.

Atacama Desert on the map of South America

Parrot mummies in the Atacama Desert

On the discovery of mummified people in the Atacamaparrots was described in the scientific publication Science Alert. The author of the scientific work is ornithologist Eliana Flores Bedregal, who came to the desert specifically to find out the reason for the death of more than two dozen birds with bright plumage. In the course of her scientific work, she studied the remains of six species of parrots that died between 1100 and 1450 AD.

Mummified parrots are perfectly preserved to our times

The research team noticed thatparrots have never been found in the Atacama Desert. Most likely, they were brought to these parts on caravans, and it took several months to overcome the long journey. The inhabitants of the desert were forced to engage in this business, because the only way to get big money in this lifeless place was by breeding parrots. Judging by the remains, the parrots were kept in terrible conditions - this is evidenced by their broken wings and legs. This means that the birds were not kept as pets.

The forests of the Amazon Basin are predominantly inhabited by Amazon parrots.

The value of parrot feathers

Many of the remains discovered by scientistsno plumage. Most likely, the inhabitants of the Atacama Desert raised parrots and plucked their bright feathers for sale. On the territory of the Andes, archaeologists have found many ancient clothes decorated with feathers of tropical birds. They could be indicators of prestige and power, so rich people such as political and religious elites could buy parrot feathers for very large sums of money. Caught for subsequent plucking, the birds clearly lived in terrible conditions, far from their native forests of the Amazon.

The brightly colored parrot feathers were used to decorate clothes and must have been very expensive.

Yes, the ancient parrots had a hard time. But modern individuals feel great and even give people trouble.

Why did people mummify animals?

At the moment it is not clear whysome birds turned into mummies and were buried with people. Sometimes birds were placed in graves with their beaks open and their tongues hanging out. It can be assumed that this was part of some kind of ritual - because of the ability of parrots to imitate human speech, they could well be considered magical. And other parrots had wings spread out to the sides as if they were in flight. To best preserve them, the desert dwellers gutted their bodies through the cloaca (anus) and wrapped them many times in cloths and bags.

One of the mummies found by scientists

In fact, in the results of scientific work there arecontradictions. Some parrots were clearly badly injured, that is, they were not the most revered birds. At the same time, the rest of the parrots were turned into mummies and buried with people, that is, they were someone's pets. How exactly the animals were selected for plucking and keeping at home, scientists do not currently know.

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Many years ago, people mummified not onlyparrots. You probably already know that in ancient Egypt, cats and scarab beetles often became mummies. But besides them, the Egyptians took care of the safety of lions and other animals. Lions were respected because they were directly associated with the ancient Egyptian Maahes, the god of war and thunder. This deity was especially respected in the city of Leontopol, even in the name of which one can notice the word "leon", which is translated from English as "lion". You can read a little more about mummified animals of antiquity in this material.