Multidisciplinary analysis of a mummy from the War of the Pacific

Eduardo Saldías*, Gabriela Valdebenito, Luis Zamora, Bruno Bastías, Cristian Flores, Bernardo Vila, Diana Vinueza, Carlos Tornero, Assumpció Malgosa, Eduardo Becker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The War of the Pacific (1879–1884) was a big scale war between Chile against the alliance of Peru and Bolivia. One of the most important battles, the “Batalla del Campo de la Alianza” was situated in the desert near Tacna, Peru. The conditions of this environment favored the conservation of the dead soldiers after many years. Decades ago, the Natural History Museum of Concepción in Chile, received a naturally mummified individual of a probably Chilean soldier as a donation; its uncertain context was never studied nor confirmed. Considering this, our investigation analyzed this body under exploratory methods, ballistic analysis, archaeological contrast,14C radiocarbon dating, ancient DNA, and isotopic analysis to reconstruct the biological profile of this mummy. The results indicated that the mummy belongs to an adult man between 33–39 years of age (> 1.50 m) and has a perimortem wound in the left flank of the abdomen. CT scan and X-rays revealed the presence of a bullet (Comblain II or Gras) hosted near the L2 vertebra. It is possible that the individual died of bleeding from a gunshot wound done by a long-distance firearm projectile from an inferior level, whose trajectory was from left to right, with slight inclination towards the top, and without a projectile exit. Other analyses confirmed the historical context and suggests the Chilean origin of the mummy. Despite the passage of time and other factors, it was possible to reconstruct the death of this individual thanks to technology and approaches from different disciplines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-465
Number of pages15
JournalAnthropologischer Anzeiger
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 25 Aug 2022


  • ancient DNA
  • Ballistic projectile
  • biological anthropology
  • natural mummification
  • perimortem wound


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