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A want my mummy

7 March 2015

Gruesome, but fascinating.

CaptureA mountain-climbing club, on an expedition to the summit of Citlatépetl (aka Pico de Oriziba), the highest mountain in Mexico and, at 5,636 meters above sea level, the third highest (after Mt. McKinley and Mt. Logan) mountain in North America, discovered two mummified human bodies.

Although in the tropics, and with a tropical climate at its based, Citlatépetl is snow covered year round at the summit, and is home to the largest glacier in Mexico.  Between the sun, the dry climate, the volcanic soil (Citlatépetl, like Mt. Fuji in Japan is a volcano, last erupting in 1846) and the cold, organic matter is slow to decompose.  Something as large as a human body would be likely to mummify, although it would not be likely to be preserved indefinitely.

CaptureIt is not an impossible climb (the first recorded climb was only in 1848, by French climber Alejandre Doignon) but it is a challenging one, requiring not just to be in good athletic condition, but also to be an experienced alpinist.

And therein lies the problem.  While the bodies were first thought to date back to the 1960s, there were two climbers lost in an avalance in 1950, whose families believe (and who authorities believe) are who the mummies were.  Which suggests that they were buried in the avalanche, but global warming since 1950 uncovered the bodies only recently.

There is, of course, a legal process to be followed, if the bodies are to be released to the families, and even after 65 years, there are accident reports to be filed, but death investigators in the State of Puebla are not mountain climbers (nor is it in their job description), nor are mountain climbers death investigators.  The climbers who discovered the mummies are willing to recover the remains, and bring them down, but then the forensics team has no way of insuring the procedures were followed, nor of avoiding contaminating the scene and ruling out suicide or homicide.

Sometimes the cliches are true… there just is no way in Mexico to follow the rules, even if you want to, and there is nowhere in the country you can go without uncovering a chilling reminder of our past.


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