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5.12.09

Inca Mummy on Display Receives Condemnation

The mummy of an Inca girl called “la Doncella” (Spanish for “the Maiden”), went on display for the first time at a museum in Salta, Argentina. The mummy was described as “perfect” by the archaeologists who found her in 1999 and said to have been sacrificed hundreds of years ago, and froze to death in an icy pit on top of Llullaillaco volcano in the Andes Mountains, in north-west Argentina on the border with Chile.

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AP Photo

Scientists believe the ‘Children of Llullaillaco’ were sacrificed as far back as more than 500 years ago in a ceremony marking the annual corn harvest to thank the Inca gods. They were dressed in fine clothes and given corn alcohol to put them to sleep, then left to freeze to death at an elevation of 22,080 feet.

The “la Doncella” was found along with a 6 year old and a 7 year old boy and was estimated to be 15 years old at the time of her death.

“la Doncella” is held in a chamber filled with chilled air that simulates the subfreezing conditions where she was found. The other children are not on display but are being studied.

She’s seated with her legs bent and her arms resting on her stomach, wearing a gray shawl and bone and metal ornaments. Scientists believe her face was painted with a red pigment. Flecks of coca leaf were found around her mouth, which are commonly used to cope with high altitudes.

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AP Photo

Visitors told Argentine media they were impressed at the mummy’s state of conservation. “I’m amazed.” one woman said. “You just expect her at any moment to get up and start talking.”

The exhibit has angered many Indian groups who were offended, and campaigned to stop the mummy from going on display. They argue the mummies should be given proper respect and buried or at least not shown to the public.

Miguel Suarez, a representative of the Calchaquies valley tribes in and around Salta, said this exhibit is a great mistake, adding that he hoped visitors would show respect for the dead.

Aztec Child Sacrificial Rituals: 15th – 16th century AD

One of the most important festivals in the Inca year is the 8 day feast which celebrates the harvesting of the maize crop. Each day a ritual chanting begins with the rising of the sun, peaks at noon, and diminishes to silence again by dusk. Burnt offerings of llamas and libations of maize beer are made to the sun god. The Inca and his court are in their finest robes, encrusted in gold and silver. Figurines of the Inca’s ancestors are also present with entourage of female attendants.

Each February children are sacrificed to maize gods on the mountain tops. In March prisoners fight to the death in gladiatorial contests, after which priests dress up in their skins. In April a maize goddess receives her share of children. In June there are sacrifices to the salt goddess. It’s been estimated that the annual harvest of victims, mainly to Huitzilopochtli — the patron deity of the Aztecs, god of war and symbol of the sun — rises from about 10,000 a year to a figure closer to 50,000 shortly before the arrival of the Spaniards.

The Inca empire once stretched across much of western South America, including present-day Peru and Bolivia, and down to central Chile and parts of Argentina, and collapsed in 1532 with the Spanish conquest.

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