Swiss return world's oldest mummies to Chile

20th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland has returned four mummies to Chile, including two of them among the world's oldest, after their private owner agreed to their restitution, cultural authorities said Thursday.

"On January 20, 2011, four pre-Columbian mummies have been handed over to the government of Chile at the Ethnography Museum in Geneva. Two of them are among the oldest in the world," said Switzerland's federal cultural office.

The two oldest mummies date back to 5,000 B.C. and the South American Chinchorro culture.

A third mummy is from an undetermined date during the pre-Columbian period, which was before the appearance of Europeans.

The last mummy dates from the time of the first contact with the Spanish.

Besides the mummies, the private collection also included other human remains in an "advanced state of degradation", which will therefore be buried in Geneva.

Experts had been unable to determine their cultural origin or date them, said the culture office.

The mummies are being handed to Chile's Council of National Monuments and will be conserved in museums.

© 2011 AFP

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