San Pedro de Atacama Frostbite
Human Mummy
Untitled drawing
Biographical Information
Name(s) Unidentified
Age Adult, age not specified
Sex Male
Status Unknown
Height Unknown
Culture Pre-Columbian Chilean
Date(s) 5000 years
Site Desert of San Pedro de Atacama
Current Location
Location Chile
Catalog # Father Le Paige Museum (San Pedro de Atacama)

This remains of this adult male mummy were found by Padre Gustov Le Paige in the desert of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. This specimen was found in a position in which females are usually buried in, with the arms down and hands covering the groin, contrary to how men usually had their arms folded across their chest.  It was found that various toes were somehow removed from the body after death, and it was determined that the cause of this was most likely frostbite, alluding to the possibility that this specimen died in the cold (and so possibly of hypothermia).


This mummy was found in a traditionally female position with its hands and arms outstretched to cover the groin area, also slightly hunched in a fetal position. There was 1.4 meters of sand above the corpse at the time it was found, meaning it was most likely buried. Most of the soft tissue was not preserved due to the limits of natural mummification.


This mummy was scanned and studied to reveal the cause of death and various other parts of the specimen's life and culture. Specifically the feet were scanned, revealing that this mummy suffered from frostbite and possible infections in the foot. This mummy is actually the first certain case of frostbite (though many cases were possible frostbite, they could have also have been caused by leprosy).


Scans of this mummy show that many bones of the fingers and toes were either heavily eroded or even separated from the body, which is a likely symptom of many diseases and conditions. It was found that the most likely culprit is frostbite. Abnormalities in many of the joints in the foot also show that the specimen most likely had some sort of infection in his foot.


Radiographs of this prehistoric inhabitant of the Atacama desert show pathological bone changes which are consistent with frostbite, gangrene and autoamputation.


Post, P. W., & Donner, D. D. (1972). Frostbite in a Pre-Columbian Mummy.American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 37(2), 187-191. Retrieved November 20, 2017, from

Milner, S. M., Caffrey, J. A., & Saquib, S. F. (2017). Frostbite. In Critical Limb Ischemia (pp. 333-336). Switzerland: Springer.

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