The city of Guanajuato in central Mexico has a bizarre attraction that is a must-see for any dark tourist.
The Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato is a museum with over 100 mummies that have been exhumed in a natural mummified state from a local cemetery.
The mummies date back to the mid 19th century, with the newest addition to the collection being as recent as 1958.
The cut-off point for new specimens was in the ’50s due to legislation being passed that made it unlawful to display the dug up bodies.
However, anyone retrieved before that date is fair game for the museum. Which of course is a major tourist attraction.
History of the Guanajuato Mummies
Interestingly, it was a different kind of legislation that caused the bodies to be exhumed in the first place.
During the 19th century, family members of the deceased buried at the cemetery had to pay an annual ‘rent’ for the space occupied by the body.
If the family failed to pay for more than 5 years in a row, the body would be exhumed so that the crypt could be made available for a newly deceased,
The first mummified body was discovered in 1865 when workers at Santa Paula exhumed the remains or a Dr. Remigio Leroy.
Instead of finding a pile of bones, they found that the body of the good doctor had dried up into a mummy.
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How does a body turn into a mummy naturally?
There are a number of potential reasons for this eerie phenomenon. The natural mummification of bodies at Santa Paula Cemetery is thought to be due to the altitude, and the area’s arid climate.
Furthermore, the wooden coffins would have absorbed moisture which then became trapped in the sealed concrete crypts.
This would have protected the bodies from outside organisms, preventing natural decay.
The result, it seems, is a mummified corpse.
From Exhumation to Museum
After the discovery of Dr. Leroy’s mummy, it wasn’t long before more exhumed bodies were found in a similar condition.
To begin with they were kept inside the cemetery’s ossuary building.
However, as word spread of this growing macabre collection of the dead, dark tourists of the day began to visit the site, bribing cemetery workers for a peek.
An obvious business opportunity in the making, a museum was eventually established to cater for the interest; the mummies were exhibited for all to see.
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What to expect at the museum?
The range of bodies both in condition and age is wide.
Some are clothed, some wear nothing but their socks. There are some examples where the person died of natural causes; there are also mummies representing a demise of much more sinister means.
There’s also the disturbing sight of child mummies. You will also get to see what is touted as the smallest mummy in the world, a new-born baby mummified with its mother (the result of death at childbirth).
There are also interesting artifacts on the background of the museum and the cemetery where the mummies were found, as well as information on the history of mummification.
You can take a city bus from central Guanajuato to where the museum is located on the western edge of town. The bus will state “Las Momias” on the front.
You may want to kindly ask the bus driver to notify you of the stop as it is unassuming. You will need to take a side street and walk uphill for a few hundred yards until you reach the museum.
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