Andean Mummified Head
Dated 6'000 Years Old

Léo DUBAL & Monique LARREY
 Virtual Laboratory for Archaeometry 
 dubal  (at)


A well preserved naturally mummified human head has been found in 1936
with two other mummies at La Cueva de las Momias, level 1A,
(misleadingly named Inca Cueva IV due to its proximity to the Camino de los Incas)
at 3680 m.o.s.l., in the Quebrada of Chulin (Prov.of Jujuy, Argentina)
by Justiniano TORRES APARICIO, MD and folkmusic composer.
His "Clavelito blanco" is interpreted by Thomas LIPAN
at url
  (188ko) .
A sample of temporal skin from the head of Chulina 
has been radiocarbon dated at the AMS Radiocarbon Laboratory
of the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zürich. The resulting calibrated
 age of Chulina  is 6'080 ± 100 years (within 82% probability).
Compared with Ötzi (the paleoalpine mummy found in Ötztal)
the age of this paleoandean head is 5'260 ± 50 years BP,
i.e., older by 724 ± 53 years BP.
The Cave of the Mummies has been decorated prior to sheltering the mummies.
Those results have been presented at the XVth World Congress 
UISPP 2006, Lisbon, see Proceed. Session C04, Vol 37, pp.111-114

The sample studied:

The three mummies found by J. TORRES APARICIO
were  desiccated naturally, and therefore suitable for radiocarbon dating.
(let us remind here that radiocarbon dating of  embalmed 
Egyptians mummies is meaningless).

For this study, was available a piece of temporal
skin of  about 3 cm2 area and of a weight of 120 mg.

sample of temporal skin photo / L; Dubal
The sample of left temporal skin on millimetric paper (Photo: L. Dubal)

This sample was been carefully collected at the Museo J. TORRES APARICIO 
in Humahuaca (Prov. Jujuy, Argentina), on the "Cabeza J.T.A.-240"

mummified head JTA-240/ photo L. Dubal

The naturally mummified human head labelled  J.T.A.-240
(Photo: L. Dubal)

The Results:

Thanks to the highly appreciated support of
from the AMS Radiocarbon Laboratory of the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zürich,
the skin sample of JTA-240,
after having 
been thoroughly degreased and washed from contaminants,
has been submitted to the standard ETH 14C-AMS dating method,
(which by the way has been applied for
Ötzi )
and results released on July, 8th, 2005 as E
ZH AMS datation report

Discussion of the results

The δ13C = -19.5 ± 1.1 °/°° which is what one could expect for human skin.
14C-AMS Age is 5'260  ± 50 y BP
The calibrated age is BCE 4170 - 3972 with 82.5% probability
 (while the age range BCE 4224 - 4180 has 17.5% probability).

Let us note that earlier, in 1986, Alicia FERNANDEZ DISTEL let perform
the radiodating of a sample of a wood container
found at level 1A, just next to the three mummies
gave  5'200 ± 110 y BP. 
In 1995, another radiodating (by Beta Analytic in Miami) of a piece of wood,
gave 5'340 ± 70 y BP. 


La Cueva de las Momias : a decorated shelter

The initial name of the site: Inca Cueva # 4,
 is inappropriate as it has only been occupied by palaeoamericans
between  10 and  4 thousands years Before Common Era.
We renamed it "La Cueva de las Momias"

M.Larrey et L. Dubal à la Cueva de las Momias / Photo: P. Carentini
The authors, March 22nd 2005, at la Cueva de los Momias,
on the spot where, in 1936, J. Torres Aparicio exhumed 
the mummies
(Chulina, Chulinita & Rosalia). (Photo: P. Carentini)

Cueva de las Momias view from la Cueva de las Momias 

            Look at La Cueva de las Momias           Looking out from La Cueva de las Momias

The GPS coordinates of La Cueva de las Momias is :
S23°00’22.6” / W65°28’05.1” 3680 m
 in the Quebrada de Chulin,  2 h walk off Rio Grande.

La Cueva de las Momias is decorated with painted patterns
 with dots and strokes.

Pointiform painting/Photo Dubal pointiform white/Photo Dubal

ocre bars/Photo Dubalrectilinear motives in ocre/Photo Dubal

Two complete mummies 

At Humahuaca (Prov. Jujuy, Argentina), the collection of late
was transformed into the Museo J. TORRES APARICIO
In addition to the mummified head of Chulina
the Museum present two complete mummies,

in particular the one the inventor named Rosalia

  Rosalia with manta de face / photo : L. Dubal  portrait Rosalia face/Photo Dubal profile Rosalia/Photo Dubal
This mummy is the
 naturally dessicated remains
of a woman, 17 to 20 years old.

The fez of Rosalia is of a remarkable finishing.

Fez of Rosalia / photo : L. Dubal

as well as her manta (105cm x 63 cm) in net. 

la mante de Rosalia : Photo : L. Dubal
As no logbook of the excavations has been found so far,
 radiodating of samples of the fez and manta,
would provide helpful data....

The last mummy is the one of a child, we named Chulinita

Rosalita/Photo Dubal


The radiodating of the skin of Chulina in 2005
comforts the wood samples radiodatings of 1986 and 1995,
to promote Rosalia & Chulinita 
for the title of the world oldest natural mummies.
Ötzi  died 5'235 ± 120 calibrated-years,
while Rosalia & Chulinita
lived in all likelihood 6'000 calibrated-years ago.
The undisturbed state of the paintings of the Cave of the Mummies
implies that this
RockArt is at least 6000 years old.


We would like to thank here Mrs. Alicia TORRES,
the owner and director of the Museo TORRES,
 in Humahuaca (Jujuy, Argentina)
who authorized this study, and 
Candelaria TORRES APARICIO, the grand daughter of Dr. J. TORRES APARICIO
to have lately express her interest in our results.

See also the two communications :
XVth UISPP Congress 2006
Global RockArt 2009

Click here for the Spanish version Chulina
Click here for the French version