Fire Mummies – The Smoked Human Remains of the Kabayan Caves
“The Fire Mummies of the Philippines, also known as the Kabayan Mummies, Benguet Mummies, or Ibaloi Mummies, are a group of mummies found along the mountain slopes of Kabayan, a town in the northern part of the Philippines. They were made from as early as 2000 BCE.”
Mummification of the deceased is a fairly well-known practice from ancient times. Most notably, the Egyptians utilized a mummification process that led to today’s cliché image of a deceased body covered in gauzy wrappings. The discovery of mummified remains in several caves in the Philippines represents a different type of mummy – the fire mummy.
Found in caves in the town of Kabayan, in the Benguet province of the Philippines, the fire mummies are human remains that were preserved through a lengthy dehydration and smoking process. These well-preserved remains have given researchers insight into a unique mummification process, and into the tribal people who engaged in those methods.
The Kabayan mummies are also known as the Ibaloi mummies, Benguet mummies, or Fire mummies. They were located in many caves in the area, including Timbak, Bangao, Tenongchol, Naapay, and Opdas.
Smoking is not a common mummification technique, and it was a very lengthy process, but it was successfully used to preserve many bodies throughout the years. Scientists have estimated that the Kabayan mummies were created by members of the Ibaloi tribe sometime between 1200 and 1500 A.D. The timeline is debated, as some scientists have speculated that the mummification practice dates back thousands of years. While the date that the practice began is in dispute, there is agreement that it ended in the 1500s. When Spain colonized the Philippines, the smoking mummification process died out, and was no longer practiced.