Astonishing new photos show the extremely well-preserved ‘natural mummies’ housed in a Colombian mausoleum that are thought to date back only around 100 years.
More than a dozen of the bodies are on display in glass cases at a mausoleum in San Bernardo, Colombia, high within the Andes and 40 miles southwest of the country’s capital Bogota.
Why they’re so well-preserved is a mystery, although some experts think it’s because of the local climate and altitude, which could affect the chemical composition of the earth and act like a natural embalmer.
However, locals think it’s due to a native diet that includes guatila, also known as chayote, a green, spiky fruit — although this theory does not account for why the mummies’ clothes are in a good state of preservation too.
Astonishing new photos show the extremely well-preserved ‘natural’ mummies housed in a Colombian mausoleum that are thought to date back only around 100 years
This mummy, pictured inside its glass case at San Bernardo, is resting in an usual position, with one arm resting over the other
Peculiar: The preserved bodies of people born in roughly the last 100 years have become a macabre tourist attraction
Bodies in the Colombian mausoleum are still in clothes and have well-preserved features, such as facial hair and fingernails
Pictured is an outside view of the mausoleum, where the natural mummies are displayed, in San Bernardo, Colombia
Chayote, a type of green and spiky squash, is seen on the stands at the market place in San Bernardo, Colombia
San Bernardo’s mummified bodies, which belonged to people born in roughly the last 100 years, were first discovered in the 1950s when a local cemetery was relocated because of a flood.
Identities of the dead at San Bernardo are known — in fact, above each body are plaques that offer personal descriptions, such as ‘Margarita…was very dedicated as homemaker, she always offered corn cakes and coffee to everyone.’
Some relatives of the dead even come to see what is left of their family member and pay their respects — including a man called Ever Pabon, whose father is among those on display, laid out in a gray-checkered suit.
‘Most people who lose their parents put them in the ground or cremate them and can never see them again,’ Mr Pabon told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. ‘But if I miss him, I can see him any time, and he’s exactly how he was in life.’
Mr Pabon said he visits his father every two weeks and carries a picture of his mummified remains on the lock screen of his phone.
Looking at the bodies’ faces, some seem to have a calm expression, as if they died in peace and comfort, while others appear more contorted
This close-up of one of the San Bernardo bodies shows some well-preserved features that would usually have rotted away — eyebrows and other facial hair
Pictured is the mausoleum, where the natural mummies are currently displayed, in San Bernardo, Colombia
Identities of the dead are known — in fact, above each body are plaques that offer various personal descriptions
The mausoleum is in San Bernardo, in the department of Cundinamarca, Colombia, high within the Andes and 40 miles southwest of the country’s capital, Bogota
After being recovered from the earth, the preserved remains were first put on display for the public in 1994, turning the small Colombian town into a unusual and controversial tourist attraction.
At the time, a Roman Catholic bishop said that showcasing the mummies was a mark of disrespect to the dead.
Looking at the bodies’ faces, some seem to have a calm expression, as if they died in peace and comfort, while others appear more contorted with age.
Sadly, some of the bodies belong to children, some still wearing clothes and shoes and now displayed together in the same glass cases.
The San Bernardo mausoleum has provided visitors with a unique albeit macabre tourist attraction since it opened in the mid-1990s
Some of the bodies belong to children, some still wearing clothes and shoes and now displayed together in the same glass cases
Why they are so well-preserved is a mystery, although some experts think it’s because of the climate and altitude of the Colombian town, which may affect the chemical composition of the earth
There’s something about the atmosphere around the village that keeps bodies from decomposing, but the scientific specifics are unknown
A baby in her mother’s arms has remained preserved without any chemical treatment due to a natural type of mummification
Similar natural mummification has been seen in Guanajuato in Mexico, where underground gas and chemical composition of the soil is responsible for the dead not rotting.
However, the dead at Guanajuato date back to the first half of the 19th century, while the mummies at San Bernardo are comparatively young.
Mummification involves a process of preserving the body after death by deliberately drying or embalming the flesh – but the bodies at San Bernardo were essentially mummified by accident.
Around 12,000 residents who live in the village nestled in a fertile valley amid fruit bushes have their own theories as to why the bodies haven’t decomposed. Pictured, a mummy that has been displayed covered with pristine white linin
This photo illustrates the remarkable state of preservation on show at the mausoleum, including the detail in the muscles along the arms
Close-up of the legs and feet of the same mummy. Preservation of the toes appears to be slightly better on the deceased’s left foot
The mummy also has a cross resting on top of the chest and white linen over the head, which is turned to the side of the glass case
The bodies at the mausoleum, in San Bernardo, Colombia, belonged to people that lived up to 100 years ago, according to authorities
Another mummy at the mausoleum has been covered with a fresh shawl and is displayed with flowers inside the glass case
Similar natural mummification has also been seen in Guanajuato in Mexico, where underground gas and chemical composition of the soil is responsible for the dead not rotting. Pictured, a San Bernardo mummy
However, the dead at Guanajuato date back to the 19th century, while the mummies at San Bernardo are comparatively young
Ultimately, it’s thought that determining a definite cause for the mummies’ preservation would require disturbing the bodies, which relatives would likely not want to happen.
Local residents have their own theories — the region has a lot of chayote or guatila, an odd fruit that is packed with vitamin C with green, spiky skin, and used in salads and native to the area, which they think gave health benefits to the mummies when they were alive.
Another local vegetable that they also credit for the amazing preservation is the balu, which ‘looks like an over-sized string bean’, according to the WSJ.
Identities of the deceased at the mausoleum in San Bernardo are known, just like a graveyard, so relatives can pay their respects
Close-up of a mummy’s hands. It’s thought that determining a definite cause for the mummies’ preservation would require disturbing the bodies, which relatives would not want to do
A visitor to the mausoleum takes a photo of one of the bodies with her smartphone. This body is still dressed in the clothes it was originally buried in
Rows of the deceased fill the San Bernardo mausoleum. The town relocated the cemetery in the 1950s after the previous cemetery suffered a flood
The mummies of San Bernardo — a national mystery in Colombia and one that attracts visitors to the small town 40 miles southwest of capital Bogota