An earthquake in Ecuador revealed the discovery of a 16th-century mummy

On August 5, 1949, an earthquake shook the small town of Guano in Ecuador, causing buildings to crack and collapse. The disaster led to the strange discovery of the Guano Mummy.

During the earthquake, the walls of the old Asunción de Guano church were destroyed and demolished, and there, hidden inside a large jar inside one of the walls of the church was the Mummy of Guano. Why he was buried in such a unique way within the walls of the church remains a mystery to many people today, as nothing like it has ever been seen before.

Part of the old church wall. Image courtesy of Chris Aguilar

Originally the mummy was a 15th century Franciscan named Fray Lázaro de Santofia. He was sent from Spain to spread Catholicism in the rural areas of the country. He helped give aid and food to the indigenous tribes around the town of Guano. He was also one of the founders of another town called San Andrés, which today is a 30-minute walk from the church.

Fray was also guardian of the church from 1565 to 1572. Many claim that because he had done so many good things for the people of this area it was a tribute and an honor to be buried within the walls of the church so that his soul could wander and always be there looking at them. No other mummies have been discovered, but part of the wall affected by the earthquake still stands and it is visible where the Franciscan was buried.

Historical accounts record that Fray was buried in a giant jar, or “jar” as the locals call it, but today there is no trace of this jar. Why he was placed in the jar is also a mystery. Some say it was out of respect, but we will never really know because there are no other examples to compare it to. Once they placed it in the jar, they covered it with a white powder that the locals call ‘lime’ and that led to the mummy being preserved to this day.

Since then, thanks to research, carbon dating, and various studies conducted by National Geographic scientists, the age of the mummy has been determined. In addition, her mother underwent 60 x-rays and two endoscopies that helped verify that Fray was between 85 and 90 years old when he died and that her height was 1.70 to 1.75 meters.

During the scientists’ visit, an episode of “The Route of the Mummies” on the Discoʋery channel was filmed. The mummy was found with a scarf around his chin. Some people claim that it was used to keep the mouth closed and others claim that it was a certain belief they had at the time. Others say that Fray had a toothache and put on the handkerchief because it hurt him.


Next to the mummy, a little mouse buried with the Franciscan was also discovered, which was also mummified. The reason for this is also not explained. However, there are two stories about it. According to locals and museum guides, the Franciscan was a lonely man for some time before his death and the mouse was his only friend, so it was left to him when he died. The other version says that once the Franciscan was buried, the mouse found its way into the vessel in which he was buried and tried to eat his remains but was unable to escape after getting into the vessel.

The mummy can be found in the town of Guano, Ecuador. The museum is open to the public and can be visited for a modest price of 50 cents. Other artifacts such as jars, manuscripts and some other vessels were also discovered next to the church after the earthquake, but not near the Franciscan’s burial.

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