Dead Bodies In This Colombian Town Keep Mummifying, And ...

11 May 2024

Dead Bodies In This Colombian Town Keep Mummifying, And Nobody Knows Why

The reason for these spontaneous mummifications remains unclear.

In the small, mountainous Colombian town of San Bernardo, an unusual discovery has left residents and scientists confused. There's a common occurrence at the town's municipal cemetery - deceased residents keep mummifying without preservatives, and their clothes, hair and even eyes often remain intact. This mysterious discovery, which initially seemed like an isolated incident, has puzzled the people of San Bernardo for decades. Despite many attempts to unravel its mystery, the exact cause remains hidden. "People were a little incredulous about what was happening," Rocio Vergara, a guide at the town cemetery's Museum of Mummies, said, as per Science Alert. 

According to the outlet, the petrified corpses, which belong to people born in roughly the past century, were first exhumed in the 1950s from the Alpine villages' cemetery after it was relocated because of a flood. By the late 1980s, the officials at San Bernardo municipal cemetery began removing bodies interred in vaults from decades past to make room for new burials. At one point, residents were reportedly digging up as many as 50 per year, although that dropped to only about five annually. 

Now, a dozen or so of the best-preserved specimens are on display at the Jose Arquimedes Castro Mausoleum for all to see. Some of the corpses appear so decomposition-proof that even their most perishable features, like eyes, clothes and hair, remain intact. 

"She still has her little brown face, round, her braids, her hair," Clovisnerys Bejarano, 63, said while describing her mother who died 30 years ago and is on display at the historical preservation society. The deceased is reportedly still in the same dress she was interred in, as per the New York Post.  

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According to Science Alert, the reason for these spontaneous mummifications remains unclear, however, numerous theories have been floated. Some attribute it to divine intervention, viewing it as a reward or punishment from God. Others speculate that the town's healthy lifestyle and temperate climate play a role. However, these theories remain suspicious as the cadavers' clothes also remain in perfect condition. 

Some experts believe that the mummifications have to do with the bodies' place of burial in arid, above-ground vaults, which they feel could act as a natural embalming agent. "The wind is constantly blowing as it is hot. It is possible to assume that the vaults work like an oven ... they dehydrate you," said Daniela Betancourt, an anthropologist at the National University of Colombia. But there haven't yet been any studies on "what specific condition are the ones that cause people to mummify," she said. 

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