10 Real-Life Ghost Ships No One Can Explain

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10 Real-Life Ghost Ships No One Can Explain



Ghost ships aren’t always as scary as they first sound; they usually refer to real, physical ships out at sea without any crew. Sometimes they’re boats in transit that broke free of their restraints, and sometimes they sustain so much damage that the crew lost confidence and abandoned ship, appearing on-shore alive and well later on.

There are some, however, which are found empty and their crew totally unaccounted for. Here are 10 ships with strange disappearances, still-missing crew, and unexplained circumstances.

10The Ocean Wave


Photo credit: Miguel Leal

The story behind the Ocean Wave was supposed to be a warm one. Artist Bas Jan Ader set a three-part performance around the ship; first, he would be sent off by a student choir singing shanties to a piano. Then he’d sail from Cape Cod to Falmouth in England in a craft only 4 meters (12 ft) in length. When he would arrive 8–10 weeks later, he’d sing the ending to the song to finish the performance. The problem was, he never arrived in England.

His boat was found floating by itself, without a trace of Bas Jan Ader within. People speculated that a rogue wave took him, or that he became disorientated and fell in, or even that the whole performance piece was amask for his own suicide. Either way, Bas Jan Ader was never found again.


9The High Aim 6


The High Aim 6 was a Chinese ship that left the port of Taiwan back in October 2002. It was located in January 2003 near Australia, without any of its crew onboard. For a while, the mystery was why it was abandoned in the first place; it was stocked with food, was in good condition, and wasn’t smuggling immigrants.

The High Aim 6 made news again when a single remaining crew member was located. It was only then that it got some sort of story: The rest of the crew had murdered the ship’s captain and engineer then left to go back to their homeland. The reasons behind the murders or the locations of the criminals are both unknown.

8The Jian Seng


Another one in Australian waters, the Jian Seng was found in 2006 without crew. The ship sported a broken tow-rope, which suggests it was in transit when the rope snapped. There were no signs of damage or piracy on the ship, so it was probably a simple case of a fragile rope. Mystery solved, right? Not as easy as first hoped.

There were no identifying marks on the ship. It didn’t turn up in searches for registered ships, if it had been registered at all. Nobody put a message out to look for a large ship that had broken free. Nobody claimed it. When they tried the ship’s engines, they found it inoperable. Even though speculation says the ship was a resupply vessel for fishing boats, nobody knows where the ship originated from.


7The Kaz II


Photo credit: Queensland Police

The Kaz II was a small yacht found off of Australia’s coast in 2008 and was reported to have been manned by three people on its departure, Des Batten and Peter and John Tunstead. On discovery, the yacht had a torn sail and contained a still-on laptop and a mug of half-empty coffee—but no crew.

A coroner stated he had solved the mystery, saying that one of the crew fell in trying to free a fishing line from the propeller, and a second followed suit trying to save him. The third turned the boat to fetch them, but the wind suddenly changed, and the yacht’s boom struck him into the water. This theory, however, has its fair share of critics, and the actual events of the disappearance are still unconfirmed.

6The Lunatic


Photo credit: cetis.si

The Lunatic holds the story of Jure Sterk, a 72-year-old man from Slovenia. He wanted to set two records: to be the oldest man to sail nonstop around the world and to do it in the smallest boat without an engine. He was by no means a novice. He had already done a round-the-world trip in 1991 and wrote four books about his adventures.

He took a radio with him on the trip, but soon after New Year’s Day in 2009, he went silent. A passing ship found the Lunatic empty and with heavy storm damage and its emergency boat at the back missing. Jure and this emergency boat were never found.

5The Resolven


Discovered in August 1884 by the sailors of the HMS Mallard, the Resolvenwas found drifting at sea. The Mallard signaled to the crew but received no response, so they decided to board the ship.

On the ship, there were no signs of trouble; in fact, it looked as if it had been recently lived in. The galley had a fire lit and food was ready on the tables, but nobody was around to eat it. There were no obvious signs of structural damage or a fight. The only clue as to what happened to the Resolven was that the captain’s entire stash of gold coins was gone, and the lifeboat was also missing. The Resolven was taken in and refitted with a new crew, but its old one was never found again.


4‘Korean People’s Army’ Ghost Boats


Photo credit: CNN

A strange array of 12 wooden boats were found floating around Japanese shores. By the state of the boats, they had been out to sea for a long time, but what’s even more mysterious was their contents of 22 corpses.

Some of the bodies had their heads cut off, and one ship contained six skulls. The only clues of their origin were that one boat was labeled “Korean People’s Army,” and another contained a cloth that looked like a tattered part of the North Korean flag. The reason behind these ghost boats is still a mystery.

3The Sea Bird


The Sea Bird was a 1750 merchant vessel that grounded herself against Rhode Island. The ship was devoid of all humans, but it still contained a dog and a cat, which happily greeted those who investigated the ship.

After the ship was investigated, several clues were discovered. Coffee was boiling on the stove, breakfast was laid out, tobacco could be smelled, and coins were visible on tables, but there was no crew. The ship was still in perfect condition, with no signs of disaster or mutiny. The only clue to the clue’s disappearance was the ship’s most recent log: “Branton Reef sighted.” The ship’s emergency longboat was gone, but both the longboat and the crew never turned up again.

2Manfred Fritz Bajorat


A battered yacht found by local Filipino fisherman had nobody piloting it—but its single crew wasn’t missing. In fact, the body of the German sailor Manfred Fritz Bajorat was found within, slumped on his desk reaching for the radio, after a heart attack took his life. Even stranger, his entire body had appeared to be mummified.

He went missing from 2009 to 2016, so people believed he had been dead for several years, which would easily explain why he went missing. The actual mummification was predicted to be due to the dry salty air and would have taken a few weeks to start.

Then the autopsy came in with some shocking news: Manfred had died from his heart attack just a week previously. The reasons Manfred went dark for so long, and how his body mummified so quickly, is unknown.

1Mary Celeste


Photo credit: Wikimedia

If you read about various real-life ghost ships around the world, you’ll notice a lot of them are nicknamed as a certain country’s own Mary Celeste. It’s only fitting we take a look at one of the more famous ghost ships to exist.

In November 1872, Benjamin Briggs boarded the Mary Celeste as its captain, along with his wife, daughter, and eight shipmates. The goal was New York to Italy, but the trip didn’t last more than a month before it turned up without denizens. The ship had its lifeboat missing but had six months’ worth of food and water onboard and no signs of structural damage or a fight.

The ship has various theories: mutiny, pirates, sea monsters, a vengeful slave, and an explosion from crude alcohol. Whatever the cause was, the Mary Celeste lives on as the most famous ghost ship mystery ever.

8 Recently Discovered Medieval Vampire Burials

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8 Recently Discovered Medieval Vampire Burials



The mythology of vampires is well-known throughout the world. Most countries have some variation on the vampire legend. Remarkably similar, too, are the ways in which vampires can be dispatched, or at least prevented from rising from the grave to plague the living. Modern science has usually dismissed these tales as folklore, however, recent evidence has emerged showing that our ancestors did indeed take these stories seriously. Over the past few decades, an increasing number of medieval burials have been excavated showing incredible brutality performed on the corpses that exactly matches the methods folklore said must be used to keep a vampire safely in its grave. And these graves are not only being found in the vampire’s traditional home of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, but in Western Europe too. Here are 8 of the best-attested cases of medieval vampire burial


Prostejov, Slovakia

Obecni? U?r?ad, Kostelec Na Hane?, Okres Proste?jov

In 1991, an archaeological investigation of the ancient church of the Holy Trinity in Prostejov discovered a crypt burial in the presbytery. The body had been buried in a coffin reinforced with iron bars, held to be one method of keeping a vampire buried, since vampires allegedly could not tolerate the touch of iron. In addition, stones had been placed on the victim’s legs, and the torso severed from the legs. The find has been dated to the 16th century. The burial is considered somewhat unusual because of its location in a church, but it has been argued that the extra sanctity of the church may have been thought by those who buried the victim to have been more likely to have kept the corpse in its grave.


Drawsko, Poland

Vampirism 04

In 2009, at Drawsko in Poland, an archaeological investigation of a medieval cemetery turned up something quite unexpected. Three graves were discovered in which the bodies had been subjected to very unusual treatment post-mortem. Two bodies of middle-aged adults had iron sickles placed on their throats. The body of a younger adult had been tied up and had a heavy stone placed upon his throat. This is in keeping with folklore, traditionally sharp iron implements being held to be anathema to vampires, hence the placement of the sickles as a measure to ensure that the alleged vampire would not rise again. Another method of keeping a suspected vampire in their grave was believed to be the placement of heavy weights upon the body, and the positioning of heavy stones upon bodies has been found in a number of vampire burials. The cemetery has not been fully excavated and archaeologists expect to find similar burials in future years.


Lesbos, Greece

F1A01  Vampire Thumb

In 1994, on the Greek island of Lesbos, near the city of Mytilene, archaeologists investigating an old Turkish cemetery found a medieval skeleton buried in a crypt hollowed out of an ancient city wall. This was not an unusual discovery, however, the post-mortem treatment of this body was very much unexpected. The corpse had been literally nailed down in its grave, with heavy iron spikes driven through the neck, pelvis and ankle. The use of iron and the practice of staking down a corpse are both well-attested in vampire folklore. The body was almost certainly that of a Muslim, believed to be the first time a corpse of a person other than a Christian had been found treated in this fashion.


Celakovice, Czech Republic

Hroby Celakovice2

In the early 1990s, archaeologists found what is believed to be the first vampires’ graveyard—an entire cemetery of vampire burials. In Celakovice, about 30 kilometers north of Prague, 14 graves have been excavated so far with metal spikes driven through their bodies or heavy stones placed upon them. The graves are believed to date from the 11th or 12th century. Most of the victims were young adults, of both sexes. It appears that the victims all died at around the same time, possibly in a epidemic, but it is unclear why the villagers thought these individuals were at risk of becoming vampires.


Sozopol, Bulgaria


One of the most well publicized cases of recent years, as a Google search will quickly show. Bulgaria is no stranger to vampire burials. More than 100 have been discovered in the past century, but the bulk of those were in remote rural areas. Sozopol is one of Bulgaria’s most popular Black Sea tourist resorts, so the discovery of two skeletons with iron spikes jammed through their bodies caused a sensation. The bodies are believed to about 700 years old, and were located buried near a former monastery. Archaeologists have confirmed that this practice was common in Bulgaria up until the 20th century, and Bulgaria subsequently has become the center of interest for those studying vampire burials.


Venice, Italy

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As has already been noted, the discovery of vampire burials has been common in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, the heartland of vampire mythology. However, until recently, they were unknown in Western Europe. This is now changing, as archaeological examination of medieval cemeteries in the West is starting to reveal that people here were just as afraid of the dead returning to plague the living. A well publicized discovery in 2006 on the island of Lazaretto Nuovo near Venice confirmed that Italy had its own vampire burials. The skeleton of a woman dating from the 16th century was discovered in a cemetery of plague victims. She had had an a large brick rammed into her mouth prior to burial. This is in keeping with medieval folklore, which held that vampires literally chewed their way out of their burial shrouds, so preventing them from doing this was seen as an effective way of stopping them rising from the grave.


Kilteasheen, Ireland


The vampire burial phenomenon struck even deeper into the West with the discovery of two skeletons at Kilteasheen in Ireland between 2005 and 2009. Officially described as “deviant” burials, the skeletons of a middle-aged man and a man in his twenties were discovered lying side by side with rocks rammed into their mouths. The discovery caused a sensation in Ireland and the UK and became the subject of a TV documentary released in 2011. It has been argued that the victims may have been considered plague-carriers rather than true vampires, because their early burial in the 8th century predates vampire legends in Europe, however, the vampire burial tag has since well and truly stuck in the public consciousness.


Southwell, UK

Immagine 9

If complacent Britons had thought their ancestors were far too sophisticated to be taken in by vampire legends as primitive peasants in Eastern Europe had been, they were in for a shock. It was revealed in 2010 that a deviant burial had been found in the Nottinghamshire town of Southwell in 1959, attracting much publicity in the British media. A long-lost archaeological report compiled during construction of a new school detailed the discovery of a skeleton dating from between A.D. 550 and 700 with metal spikes jammed through heart, shoulders and ankles. The placement of a spike through the heart in particular attracted public interest because of its long association with vampires in myth and legend. Archaeologists have in fact thrown cold water over the idea the man was considered a vampire because the burial predates vampire legend in Europe, but the idea has seized the public imagination and inspired new research into vampirism in Britain.

10 Horrifying Premature Burials

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10 Horrifying Premature Burials



Being buried prematurely is one of the most terrifying of all fears. Edgar Allan Poe wrote about it and it has been the subject matter of many horror movies. Surprisingly real life cases of this terrible mistake are more common than one might think. Years ago when embalming wasn’t as common and because of inferior medical equipment to detect life there are numerous cases where people have had the terrifying experience of regaining consciousness in their own coffin. This list includes 10 such cases. Some sources for the list are from newspaper articles or journals and include the exact text which gives you a feeling of the time period. Another main source used for this list is a book written in 1905 called Premature Burial and How it May be Prevented which includes several actual cases of premature burials.


Virginia Macdonald


Virginia Macdonald lived with her father in New York City and became ill, died, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn. After the burial, her mother declared her belief that the daughter was not dead when buried and persistently asserted her belief. The family tried in vain to assure the mother of the death of her daughter. Finally the mother insisted so strenuously that her daughter was buried alive the family consented to have the body taken up. To their horror, they discovered the body lying on the side, the hands badly bitten, and every indication of a premature burial.

Interesting Fact: When the Les Innocents cemetery in Paris, France was moved from the center of the city to the suburbs the number of skeletons found face down convinced many people and several doctors that premature burial was very common.


Madam Blunden


When Madam Blunden was thought to be dead, she was buried in the Blunden family vault at Holy Ghost Chapel in Basingstoke, England. The vault was situated beneath a boys’ school. The day after the funeral when the boys were playing they heard a noise from the vault below. After one of the boys ran and told his teacher about the noises the sexton was summoned. The vault and the coffin were opened just in time to witness her final breath. All possible means were used to resuscitate her but it was unsuccessful. In her agony she had torn frantically at her face and had bitten the nails off her fingers.

Interesting Fact: A large number of designs for safety coffins were patented during the 18th and 19th centuries. Safety coffin were fitted with a mechanism to allow the occupant to signal that he or she has been buried alive. You can see one of the variations here.


New York Times article


“WOODSTOCK, Ontario, Jan. 18- Recently a girl named Collins died here, as it was supposed, very suddenly. A day or two ago the body was exhumed, prior to its removal to another burial place, when the discovery was made that the girl had been buried alive. Her shroud was torn into shreds, her knees were drawn up to her chin, one of her arms was twisted under her head, and her features bore evidence of dreadful torture.”

Interesting Fact: In the 19th century, Dr. Timothy Clark Smith of Vermont was so concerned about the possibility of being buried alive that he arranged to be buried in a special crypt that included a breathing tube and a glass window in his grave marker that would permit him to peer out to the living world six feet above. You can see his grave here.


Daily Telegraph article


“GRENOBLE, Jan. 18- A gendarme was buried alive the other day in a village near Grenoble. The man had become intoxicated on potato brandy, and fell into a profound sleep. After twenty hours passed in slumber, his friends considered him to be dead, particularly as his body assumed the usual rigidity of a corpse. When the sexton, however, was lowering the remains of the ill-fated gendarme into the grave, he heard moans and knocks proceeding from the interior of the ‘four-boards.’ He immediately bored holes in the sides of the coffin, to let in air, and then knocked off the lid. The gendarme had, however, ceased to live, having horribly mutilated his head in his frantic but futile efforts to burst his coffin open.

Interesting Fact: The Fear of being buried alive is called taphephobia. The word “taphephobia” comes from the Greek “taphos” meaning “grave” + “phobia” from the Greek “phobos” meaning “fear” = literally, fear of the grave, or fear of being put in the grave while still alive.


The Sunday Times article


“TONNEINS, Dec. 30- A frightful case of premature interment occurred not long since, at Tonneins, in the Lower Garonne. The victim, a man in the prime of life, had only a few shovelfuls of earth thrown into his grave when an indistinct noise was heard to proceed from his coffin. The grave-digger, terrified beyond description, instantly fled to seek assistance, and some time elapsed before his return, when the crowd, which had by this time collected in considerable numbers round the grave, insisted on the coffin being opened. As soon as the first boards had been removed, it was ascertained beyond a doubt, that the occupant had been interred alive. His countenance was frightfully contracted with the agony he had undergone, and, in his struggles, the unhappy man had forced his arms completely out of the winding sheet, in which they had been securely enveloped. A physician, who was on the spot, opened a vein, but no blood flowed. The sufferer was beyond the reach of art.”

Interesting Fact: In The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, one of the worst case scenarios listed in the book is how to survive if you are buried alive in a coffin. If anyone finds themselves in the same predicament as the people on this list you can read some life saving information here.


British Medical Journal

Catriona From Within The Coffin

“December 8- It appeared from the evidence that some time ago a woman was interred with all the usual formalities, it being believed that she was dead, while she was only in a trance. Some days afterwards, the grave in which she had been placed being opened for the reception of another body, it was found that the clothes which covered the unfortunate woman were torn to pieces, and that she had even broken her limbs in attempting to extricate herself from the living tomb. The Court, after hearing the case, sentenced the doctor who had signed the certificate of
decease, and the mayor who had authorized the interment, each to three months’ imprisonment for involuntary manslaughter.”

Interesting Fact: Today, when a definition of death is required, doctors usually turn to “brain death” to define a person as being clinically dead. People are considered dead when the electrical activity in their brain ceases.


New York Times article


“DAYTON, Feb. 8.-A sensation has been created here by the discovery of the fact that Miss Hockwalt, a young lady of high social connections, who was supposed to have died suddenly on Jan. 10, was buried alive. The terrible truth was discovered a few days ago, and since then it has been the talk of the city. The circumstance of Miss Hockwail’s death was peculiar. It occurred on the morning of the marriage of her brother to Miss Emma Schwind at Emannel’s Church. Shortly before 6 o’clock the young lady was dressing for the nuptials and had gone into the kitchen. A few moments afterward she was found sitting on a chair with her head leaning against a wall and apparently lifeless. Medical aid was summoned in, Dr. Jewett who, after examination, pronounced her dead. Mass was being read at the time in Emannel’s Church and it was thought best to continue, and the marriage was performed in gloom. The examination showed that Anna was of excitable temperament, nervous, and affected with sympathetic palpitation of the heart. Dr. Jewett thought this was the cause of her supposed death. On the following day, the lady was interred in the Woodland. The friends of Miss Hockwalt were unable to forget the terrible impression and several ladies observe that her eyes bore a remarkably natural color and could not dispel an idea that she was not dead. They conveyed their opinion to Annie’s parents and the thought preyed upon them so that the body was taken from the grave. It was stated that when the coffin was opened it was discovered that the supposed inanimate body had turned upon its right side. The hair had been torn out in handfuls and the flesh had been bitten from the fingers. The body was reinterred and efforts made to suppress the facts, but there are those who state they saw the body and know the facts to be as narrated.”

Interesting Fact: In 1822 Dr Adolf Gutsmuth was buried alive several times to demonstrate a safety coffin he had designed. Once he stayed underground for several hours and ate a meal of soup, sausages and beer delivered to him through the coffin’s feeding tube.


Mary Norah Best

Buried Alive-1

Seventeen year old Mary Norah Best was the adopted daughter of Mrs. Moore Chew. Mary was pronounced dead from cholera and entombed in the Chew’s vault in an old French cemetery in Calcutta. The surgeon that pronounced her dead was a man who would have benefited by her death and had tried to kill her adopted mother. Before Mary “died” her adoptive mother fled to England after the second attempt on her life and left Mary behind. Mary was put into a pine coffin and it was nailed shut. Ten years later, in 1881 the vault was unsealed to admit the body of Mrs. Moore’s brother. On entering the vault, the undertaker’s assistant found the lid off of Mary’s coffin on the floor. The position of her skeleton was half in and half out of the coffin. Apparently after being entombed Mary awoke from the trance and struggled violently till she was able to force the lid off of her coffin. It is surmised that after bursting open her casket she fainted from the strain and while falling forward over the edge of her coffin she struck her head against the masonry shelf killing her. It is believed the surgeon poisoned the girl and then certified her death.

Interesting Fact: Some believe Thomas A Kempis, a German Augustinian monk who wrote The Imitation of Christ in the 1400’s was denied canonization because splinters were found embedded under his nails. Canonization authorities determined that anyone aspiring to be a saint would not fight death if he found himself buried alive.


New York Times Article

Buried Alivecrop

“ASHEVILLE, N.C., Feb. 20.–A gentleman from Flat Creek Township in this (Buncombe) County, furnishes the information that about the 20th of last month a young man by the name of Jenkins, who had been sick with fever for several weeks, was thought to have died. He became speechless, his flesh was cold and clammy, and he could not be aroused, and there appeared to be no action of the pulse and heart. He was thought to be dead and was prepared for burial, and was noticed at the time that there was no stiffness in any of the limbs. He was buried after his supposed death, and when put in the coffin it was remarked that he was as limber as a live man. There was much talk in the neighborhood about the case and the opinion was frequently expressed that Jenkins had been buried alive. Nothing was done about the matter until the 10th inst., when the coffin was taken up for the purpose of removal and internment in the family burying ground in Henderson County. The coffin being wood, it was suggested that it be opened in order to see if the body was in such condition that it could be hauled 20 miles without being put in a metallic casket. The coffin was opened, and to the great astonishment and horror of his relatives the body was lying face downward, and the hair had been pulled from the head in great quantities, and there was scratches of the finger nails on the inside of the lid and sides of the coffin. These facts caused great excitement and all acquainted personally with the facts believe Jenkins was in a trance, or that animation was apparently suspended, and that he was not really dead when buried and that he returned to consciousness only to find himself buried and beyond help. The body was then taken to Henderson County and reinterred. The relatives are distressed beyond measure at what they term criminal carelessness in not being absolutely sure Jenkins was dead before he was buried.”

Interesting Fact: Because of the concern of premature burials a Society was formed called Society for the Prevention of People Being Buried Alive. They encouraged the slow process of burials.


Madame Bobin


In 1901 a pregnant Madame Bobin arrived on board a steamer from Western Africa and appeared to be suffering from yellow fever. She was then transferred to a hospital for those affected with contagious diseases. There she became worse and apparently died and was buried. A nurse later said she noticed that the body was not cold and that there was tremulousness of the muscles of the abdomen and expressed the opinion that she could have been prematurely buried. After this was reported to Madame Bobin’s father, he had the body exhumed. They were horrified to find that a baby had been born and died with Madame Bobin in the coffin. An autopsy showed that Madame Bobin had not contracted yellow fever and had died from asphyxiation in the coffin. A suit against the health officials resulted in £8,000 ($13,000) damages against them.

Photos: Mummy Hair Reveals Ancient Last Meals

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Photos: Mummy Hair Reveals Ancient Last Meals


The 2,000-year-old mummies at buried at the Paracas Necropolis in modern-day Peru likely ate corn, beans as well as plants and animals from the sea, a new study finds. Researchers did a chemical analysis of the mummies’ hair, and found certain elements that hinted at the mummies’ food preferences. Peru’s dry climate preserved the mummies, and the researches carefully treated them with respect during the study, they said. [Read the full story on the mummies’ food habits]

Coastal culture

Peruvian archaeologist Julio Tello found the Paracas Necropolis along the southern coast of Peru in 1925. There’s evidence that the Paracas culture also lived in the Andes Mountains, but it’s unclear where they traveled back and forth from the coast to the highlands, the researchers found.

(Image credit: This article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 55, Knudson KJ, Peters AH, Cagigao ET. “Paleodiet in the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin samples from the south coast of Peru,” 231-243. Copyright Elsevier 2015. Illustration by Ann Peters.)

Burial site

An illustration of a male burial found at the Paracas Necropolis. Tello and his colleagues found 429 mummy bundles, called fardos, but only 149 of them have ever been opened. The opened fardos contain hundreds of artifacts, including gold ornaments and wool and cotton textiles, the researchers said.

(Image credit: This article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 55, Knudson KJ, Peters AH, Cagigao ET. “Paleodiet in the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin samples from the south coast of Peru,” 231-243. Copyright Elsevier 2015. Illustration by Ann Peters.)

Red headdress

To learn more about the mummies’ diets, the researchers took hair samples from 14 individuals and two hair artifacts found at the Paracas Necropolis. This individual wears a red and black headdress.

(Image credit: This article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 55, Knudson KJ, Peters AH, Cagigao ET. “Paleodiet in the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin samples from the south coast of Peru,” 231-243. Copyright Elsevier 2015. Photo by Elsa Tomasto Cagigao)

Feathery decoration

A male mummy wearing his hair bunched into a topknot. The hair is secured with a braided ornament made of plant fibers and feathers. The researchers were able to learn more about the mummies’ eating habits by examining the number and type of carbon and nitrogen isotopes (variations of an element) in the mummies’ hair. (Image credit: Ann Peters)

Detailed headbands


The back of a male mummy’s head. The man wears a headband resting on top of a light brown cotton fiber and a loosely woven cotton cloth. (Image credit: Ann Peters)

Famous textiles

The people living at Paracas 2,000 years ago created wondrous textiles, which are on display at museums around the world, said the study’s lead researcher Kelly Knudson, an associate professor of anthropology at the Center for Bioarchaeological Research at Arizona State University.

“It was so dry on the coast of Peru that these people were naturally mummified with yards and yards of these beautifully embroidered textiles,” Knudson said. “Some of which took possibly 50,000 hours to create.”

Previous research has referred to the figure in this textile as a dancing or falling figure, a shamanic figure, or a sacrificed person who is making the transition from life to death, said one of the new study’s researchers, Ann Peters, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. (Image credit: Ann Peters)

Braided hair

A head with a braided headdress and camelid (llama or alpaca) wool and textiles. Once the researchers got samples of hair, they analyzed it for nitrogen isotopes, which can indicate whether an individual ate a large amount of seafood. The Paracas culture lived on the coast near “one of the richest fisheries in the world,” Knudson told Live Science. So, it was no surprise that the chemical analysis showed the mummies once ate plants or animals from the sea, she said.

(Image credit: This article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 55, Knudson KJ, Peters AH, Cagigao ET. “Paleodiet in the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin samples from the south coast of Peru,” 231-243. Copyright Elsevier 2015. Photo by Elsa Tomasto Cagigao)

Colorful style

A male mummy from the Paracas Necropolis with a knotted and fringed headdress. The researchers also analyzed the carbon isotopes in the mummies’ hair to determine what types of plants they consumed in the weeks and months before they died. The study showed the mummies ate a mix of different carbon isotopes, including those found in corn, beans and fruit.

(Image credit: This article was published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, Vol. 55, Knudson KJ, Peters AH, Cagigao ET. “Paleodiet in the Paracas Necropolis of Wari Kayan: carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis of keratin samples from the south coast of Peru,” 231-243. Copyright Elsevier 2015. Photo by Ann Peters)

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