Grave cleaner Harold carries a mummified corpse at the Cemetery General in Guatemala City. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

In Guatemala, if a lease on a crypt has expired or not been paid, grave cleaners will break it open to remove the body for reburial. Remains that are then claimed by families are stored in a small box and then deposited at an ossuary at the General Cemetery. Any unclaimed remains are packed into plastic bags, labeled and stored in mass graves. Bodies that have been stored in the upper crypts are exposed to dry and sunny conditions, which means they do not decompose and instead become mummified.

Text provided by Reuters


A grave cleaner holds up a skull during exhumation works at the Cemetery General in Guatemala City. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A vulture flies in between rows of crypts at the Cemetery General. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A grave cleaner uses a maul to break the cover of a crypt as a fellow grave cleaner works standing on a ladder during exhumation January 29, 2014. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A grave cleaner holds the mummified body of a woman during exhumation works at the Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A grave cleaner takes the coffin of a child out of a crypt during exhumation works at the children’s section of the Cemetery General in Guatemala City. (Jorge Dan LopezReuters)

A vulture sits on a tree above the Cemetery General. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

The mummified body of a woman lies on the floor and next to a wall with the writing “No littering here” during exhumation works at the Verbena cemetery in Guatemala City. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Plastic bags, some bearing identification codes, others the sex and the year of death of the exhumed bodies. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Grave cleaner Wicho looks for a bag containing the remains of a body which is being claimed by its family inside a mass grave at the General Cemetery. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

Grave cleaners place plastic bags with skeletal remains on a forklift next to a mummified body at the Verbena cemetery. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A grave cleaner carries a mummified body towards the mass grave at the Verbena cemetery. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

A worker drives a forklift with discarded coffins as a mummified corpse lies on the back. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)

The mummified body of a woman sits on the floor during exhumation works at the Verbena cemetery. (Jorge Dan Lopez/Reuters)