Anthropological Science
Online ISSN : 1348-8570
Print ISSN : 0918-7960
ISSN-L : 0918-7960
The Ibaloi fire mummies: the art and science of mummification in the Philippines
MARK B. CARASCALIAN KENDRICH C. FONTANILLAMARIA CORAZON A. DE UNGRIA
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JOURNALS FREE ACCESS Advance online publication

Article ID: 210422

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Abstract

The Ibaloi fire mummies are preserved ancient remains of Ibaloi, one of the indigenous peoples of the northern Philippines. The locals kept the traditional Ibaloi mummification through oral traditions, but the current generation no longer conducts the actual practice. We categorized the mummification steps into preprocessing, smoking, and postprocessing. The preprocessing involved a ‘saltwater purge,’ washing, positioning the body onto a ‘death chair,’ removing the epidermis, and ‘deworming.’ The smoking process, from which the name ‘fire mummy’ was derived, involved the smoking of a body under a low-lit woodfire. The postprocessing involved sun-drying and application of a plant concoction to the body. Notably, the traditional Ibaloi mummification process shares similarities with other mummification practices elsewhere. This paper provides a systematic review of the traditional Ibaloi mummification and highlights the essential physical and chemical processes involved in body preservation. We want to encourage more interdisciplinary studies on the Ibaloi fire mummies to identify potential applications of the traditional process in corpse preservation. We also hope to contribute to discourses with people from multicultural backgrounds to increase our understanding of the history and culture of ancient human settlements in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific.

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