Strange Science: Corpses That Don’t Rot

Andes MountainsHigh in the Andes Mountains of Colombia, there’s a small town called San Bernardo (about 3 hours south of Bogata) where some corpses refuse to rot. And it’s not just the corpses, it’s their clothing, too!

Were it only the bodies that haven’t rotted, there could be scientific explanations related to the diet that is specific to the residents of the area. Another possibility, which accounts for both the bodies and clothing remaining intact, is that the elevation and climate preserves them in a way that is not seen in other locations. A third explanation is that residents note that the only mummified bodies have been buried in the “new” cemetery location, which has been in use since 1957. So perhaps it’s something in the soil there that has a preservative effect on bodies and clothing. Or it could be a combination of these reasons!

Fourteen mummified bodies (out of more than a hundred that have been exhumed) remain on display at a small museum in San Bernardo. There’s a video of the museum on YouTube, if you’d like to see the mummies without travelling to South America. And you can read more about them at Atlas Obscura or Oddity Central.

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1 Response to Strange Science: Corpses That Don’t Rot

  1. C. Spillard says:

    Radioactivity can do that, by killing the microbes that would otherwise rot bodies. It needn’t be man-made, it could be natural, like there is in granite or some fluorides.

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