Photos show mummified corpses being cleaned in Indonesian ritual, not 'dead people returning to life'

·3 min read

A photo has been shared in multiple Indonesian-language blog and Facebook posts alongside a claim that it shows two people who came back to life after they were dead for a century. However, the claim is false; the photo shows a ritual ceremony to clean mummified corpses in Indonesia's Sulawesi island.

The photo appeared in this Facebook post, uploaded in a group with more than 217,000 members on July 16, 2022.

"Praise be to God. These two people have been dead for 100 years but they came back to life," reads the Indonesian-language caption of the post.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on July 21, 2022

The post includes a link to an Indonesian-language blog post, dated June 20, 2022.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on July 20, 2022

The headline of the blog article and the text overlay on the picture make a similar claim.

The photo has also appeared with a similar claim herehere and here in different Facebook groups with 724,000 members in total.

The picture has been published in similar blog posts for years, for example in 2017 and 2016.

However, the claim is false.

A reverse image search on Google found that the photo was published in an Indonesian-language travel blog website here on August 26, 2014.

Translated to English, the title of the blog post reads: "Horror Tourism in Toraja".

Toraja, also called Tana Toraja, is a mountainous region in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi.

The article explains a Torajan ritual called Manene or Ma'nene, in which people clean the mummified corpses of their relatives.

One paragraph of the blog post reads: "Ma'nene, as it's called in the Toraja language, is held every August in Pangala, North Toraja, like in the recent two days in August 2014. Ma'nene is a ritual to exhume the corpses from their graves.

"The exhumed corpses are the ones that have been buried for tens of years, such as 20 years, 30 years or even hundreds of years. The purpose is to dust off the corpses, put them under the sun, and even change their clothes."

The blog article published five photos of the ritual, including the one shared in the misleading post.

Below is a screenshot of some of the Ma'nene photos published in the 2014 blog, with the matching photo marked out by AFP:

Screenshot of the photos in the 2014 blog article

During the Manene ritual, carried out before or after the August harvest, the Torajan people dig out their mummied relatives, clean them and dress them in their favourite clothes to honour their spirits, AFP reported here.

AFP published photos of the the ritual here.

Amos Sumbung, the man who wrote the 2014 blog post, told AFP that he is a Torajan native and the pictures show a Manene ritual held in Toraja in August 2014.

"The photos were taken by some people who live near where a Ma'nene ritual was held in my hometown. These people are my relatives," he said on July 19, 2022.

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