Cross-section of a funerary bundle, showing the deceased person, the layers of wrapping and grave goods. Illustration from Ann Peters, 2009

What is a funerary bundle?

A funerary bundle is a large package consisting of many lengths of cloth wrapped around a human cadaver. The deceased person was first placed inside a basket, and both were wrapped in two or three thick cotton shrouds up to four meters wide and more than 20 meters long. The resulting bale was then enveloped in several layers of plain cloth alternating with several layers of embroidered cloth, along with small garments and accessories. The entire bundle was formed into a conical shape in which the top or “false head” represented the head of the deceased. This part of the bundle was sometimes crowned with an intricate headdress.

Within the incredible beauty of the Paracas funerary tradition, deceased persons seem to have been conceived of as seeds, the bundles as plant bulbs, and the cemeteries as gardens. The message of this burial custom seems to have been that life continued after death—that life continued beyond this life in order to give rise to a new existence.