May 24, 2024
Kabayan Mummies

Kabayan Mummies

Mummy! It sounds like a huge pyramid, elaborate coffins in secret chambers inside, and corpses wrapped in cloth. Mummies therefore seem to be at the forefront of Egyptian civilization. But they were not the first, many before and after them preserved the dead in this process. Kabayan Mummies/Fire Mummies are mummies you may have curiosity about.

Fire mummy/Kabayan Mummies is an example of that. This process of mummification by drying the body with smoke was practiced in the Philippines, in the Asian continent.

Kabayan is a hilly region of Benguet province in the northern Philippines. The Ibaloi tribe lives here. They live scattered in small villages at the foot of Timbak mountain. Fire mummies can be found in these mountain caves. The ancestors of the Ibaloi used to mummify the dead in Timbak, Bangao, and in other caves. That is why this mummy is also known as Ibaloi mummy or Kabayan mummy.

The question may arise exactly when did this method start? Analyzing the evidence available so far, scientists believe that it began in 1200 AD. However, many experts believe that mummification began at least a thousand years before that.

While the beginning is disputed, the ending is not in doubt. In the 1500s, the Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan colonized the Philippines. With the spread of Christianity, local traditions and culture started to disappear. This practice of cremation is abolished in this stream.

Not much is written about exactly how the Ibaloi mummified. However, good information is available from stories passed down from generation to generation. A lot has been learned even using modern technology.

All the threads show that mummification started while the person was still alive. The moribund was given a salty drink to drink. Locals knew that salt water dehydrates the body. They thought that drinking this drink before death would drain the body water quickly. However, according to modern science, the contribution of this process behind the making of mummies is negligible.

After people die, the main work begins. All in all it took weeks to months. In the first step, the body was bathed in cold water. Then it was covered with a special type of blanket. A scarf called sinalibubo was worn on the head. The dead were placed on the chair. The body of the corpse was wrapped with a blanket, and the head was straightened with a scarf.

The next step was to dry the corpse with smoke. For this, a small fire was lit and a chair placed under it. But the dead person was never exposed to direct fire. In the heat, all the water in the body is slowly expelled, and accumulates in the bottle. When it was completely dry, they would bring down the body from the chair.

last step was performed by the relatives and elders of the community by exposing the shriveled body to the sunlight. The purpose is to remove the top layer of skin. Tobacco was burned by applying special drugs made from local leaves and roots.

This smoke would have been arranged to enter through the nostrils of the deceased. Ibaloi believed that it would dry up the remaining water in the body. Needless to say, scientists proved this theory wrong as well.

Last task! The deceased is ready to take his last leave. People in the community covered the mummy with several layers of cloth and placed it in a wooden coffin much like a baby in a mother’s womb. It was taken to mountain caves for various rituals. There the dead person was kept and the last rites were performed.

The Ibaloi believe that if the fire mummies are not removed from the cave, their spirits will suffer. And the curse will descend, various disasters will occur. However, it could be moved from one place to another inside the cave.

The Ibaloi live in remote areas of the Philippines. The location of their burial cave is also in a remote area. It takes five hours to drive there. After that, climbing the stone stairs will begin. These caves can be seen after about five hours. The government has fenced them for security. Even after all this, the theft could not be prevented.

The most famous stolen mummy incident was in 1919. Researchers were able to recover his name – Apo Anno. This man with tattoos all over his body died more than five hundred years ago. This Apo Anno is probably one of the last mummies of the Ibaloi.

It is known from his tomb that he was a leader, also famous as a hunter. To the Ibaloi he is half-god half-man. So after the theft of his mummy, they blamed all the natural disasters on the curse.

Law and order authorities rushed to the field to find this famous mummy. It is known that a Filipino priest removed Apo Anno from the burial cave. Then he moved to the circus exhibition. A collector bought this mummy after several exchanges.

In 1984, it was sent to the National Museum of the Philippines. Authorities quickly informed the government. They contacted the Ibaloi leaders and sent Apo Anno to his people. After performing various rituals, he was returned to the cave. The government now put an iron gate there.

Several fire mummies were stolen around 2000. Later, various collectors in Europe bought them at huge sums. Eight mummies were returned in 2004. However, several fire mummies still remain with collectors.

The method of mummification using fire and smoke is not unique to the Ibaloi. It was also practiced among several tribes in Papua New Guinea. But the fire mummies of the Philippines are better known. In all, 50-80 such mummies have been found. However, the location of many has been kept secret to prevent theft.

The Ibaloi still remember their mummified ancestors with reverence. Offering food and drink for them. In order to enter the Caves for research, they need the permission of their leaders. Work has to be done inside the cave, and there is always a local man present. His job is to explain to mummy – what is happening, why is it happening!

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