The Chauchilla Cemetery was discovered in the 1920s but had not been used since the 9th century AD. The burials began about 200 AD and continued for 600-700 years. Since its discovery in the 1920s, the cemetery has been extensively plundered by huaqueros (grave robbers) who have left human bones and pottery scattered around the area. The site has been protected by Perúvian law since 1997 and the majority of the scattered bones and plundered pottery have been restored to the tombs.
The bodies are so remarkably preserved due mainly to the dry climate in the Perúvian Desert, but the funeral rites were also a contributing factor. The bodies were clothed in embroidered cotton and then painted with a resin and kept in purpose-built tombs made from mud bricks. The resin is thought to have kept out insects and slowed bacteria trying to feed on the bodies. It is the only archeological site in Perú in which ancient mummies are seen in their original graves.