An open-air museum sits frozen in time in the lonely Atacama Desert in Peru. It’s late in the afternoon and the sun is shining low and strong on a small foot path strewn with bleached human bones. Small huts haphazardly shelter ancient tombs that hold the some of the oldest mummies in the world. The arid desert has preserved the mummified human remains for thousands of years- the oldest dating back to 7020 BC. (2000 years older than the earliest mummies found in Egypt.)
The children are mummified with great care and ceremony. However, unlike the Egyptians, this ancient South American Society mummified all of its dead regardless of status.
Much of the site has been protected due to the great diligence of the locals and archaeologists. Though, many tombs have been disturbed by grave robbers who, in their haste to find black market treasures, carelessly scattered pieces of bones and pottery throughout the burial ground.
A lone man sitting a table at the edge of the site resists packing up his trinkets. The sun is setting and the heat of the desert escapes with the sun in repose. The only vehicle in the desert is the one we came in. Where does he go at the end of the day? His last customers wander by and the hope sinks out of him as he slumps and begins to pack away his belongings. We run back and buy a few bracelets- not out of pity- but to remember how much differently people live around the world.