The Japan Times, April 17, 1999

Mummy of baby found in Argentine cave

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) Argentine archaeologists have discovered the mummy of a baby wrapped in leather and straw in a cave in the northwestern province of Catamarca, where the dry Andean mountain air preserved it for 1,500 to 2,000 years.
"The baby seems to be have been no more than 4 months old. It died of natural causes and was buried in a leather wrapping," Carlos Aschero, the head of the Institute of Archaeology of Tucuman University, said Thursday.
The mummy was discovered unexpectedly when scientists X-rayed a bundle of leather and straw found 3,600 meters above sea level in a volcanic cave in Antofagasta, in the Andes in Argentina's far northwest.
"We only realized what it was when X-rays were done and showed the shape of the baby. We had this bundle, but we did not really know what it contained," Aschero said.
"It's in very good shape and was mummified naturally by the extremely dry climate," he said. "It was covered in straw over the leather wrapping and the straw and dry weather helped conserve it."
The find came amid archaeological excitement in Argentina about the discovery of the mummies of three children sacrificed to Inca gods on an icy mountaintop in the nearby province of Salta. They date back 500 years to the Inca empire.
Near the Catamarca mummy, archaeologists found two small baskets made of vegetable fibers. One was colored, and the other contained the remains of what appeared to be a food offering.
Argentine scientists estimate the new mummy's age at 1,500 to 2,000 years but say carbon dating tests and DNA tests should determine its age more precisely. Those tests may be carried out in the University of Georgia in the United States, Aschero said.
He also wants to study the mummy to find out more about its diet.
"It could tell us whether the diet was based on meat or agricultural elements and indicate what the economy of the culture was based on," he said.


ANTOFAGASTA DE LA SIERRA, Argentina - The remains of a baby, naturally mummified more than 1,500 years ago by the arid climate, rests on a leather wrapper on the top of Cerro Galan peak Thursday, following its discovery by Argentine archaeologists. REUTERS PHOTO