The small, picturesquely situated village of Leymebamba in the district of the same name owes its fame to a devastating storm.
Shepherds had discovered the mummies and grave goods at the Laguna de los Cóndores in 1996, after a storm had swept away the vegetation above the embankment and revealed buildings in a rocky niche. In an expedition as exhausting as it was elaborate, 219 bundles of mummies were brought to Leymebamba in boats and on horseback between August and November 1997, where a museum was built thanks to Austrian funds. In the museum, a specially constructed “mummy room” ensures optimum storage and creates ideal conservation conditions. The state of conservation of the mummies found at Laguna de los Cóndores is exceptional, considering the humid climate and high precipitation in the region around Leymebamba. The overhangs above the rock niches in which the mummies were found seem to have withstood the rain and provided a cool, dry microclimate in which even organic materials could survive the time.
Before their contact with the Inca, the Chachapoyas did not seem to have embalmed their dead, but merely selected climatically suitable places for the burial. It was only under the influence of the Incas that they adopted techniques of embalming and gutting the bodies. The skin of the dead was treated so that it took on a leathery consistency. In the mouth, cheeks and nose, unspun cotton packets were inserted, which ensured that the facial features of the deceased were preserved. The internal organs were removed and thus decomposition processes were slowed down. After the bodies were reduced to their minimum volume and weight, they were laced with several layers of cloth to child size bundles. These textile covers also contributed to the good condition of the mummies. Finally, stylized faces were embroidered on the face area.