The Italian Almanac

land of the Cloud People

Italian News - March 2

Italy's Iceman is to be joined in his northern Italian lair by the Cloud People - fellow mummies from South America. The 5,000-year-old hunter who emerged from a northern Italian glacier in 1991 is to be flanked by 12 members of a large group of mummies found in the mountains of Peru in 1996. The mummies, from a long-lost tribe called the Chachapoya, are set to go on temporary show alongside Bolzano Archaeological Museum's frozen attraction.

In Inca, Chachapoya means 'People of the Clouds'. Studies will be performed on the mummies by Iceman expert Eduard Egarter who hopes to establish what method was used to preserve them. Some experts think they may have had their organs extracted, like Egyptian mummies. Others believe there have been some as yet unknown preservative in the winding sheets in which their bodies were wrapped before they were placed in funerary niches. However, this theory clashes with the fact that some of the bodies were not covered.

Egarter had to ask permission to examine the mummies from a tribe that claims to be descended from the Chachapoya. A representative of the tribe will accompany the remains of his revered ancestors to make sure they - and some 100 artefacts - are well taken care of. Among other things, Egarter had to promise that examinations would not be too intrusive.

The Cloud People, who flourished between 800 and 1500 AD, were described by their Inca conquerors as "tall warriors with fair hair and fair skin." After their subjugation, they were killed off by diseases contracted from the European invaders who caused the Incas' own demise, the Spanish Conquistadores. The Chachapoya left no writings but some splendid rock fortresses, the most famous at Kuelap near Peru's Condor Lake.