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Mummified Inca child sacrifice gives up her secrets
Sitting cross-legged, a Mona Lisa half-smile playing on her lips, the Llullaillaco Maiden looks at peace. When she was unearthed in 1999, the lump of coca in her teeth and her icy mountaintop tomb were the only clues that she was part of an Inca child sacrifice ritual 500 years ago.
Now the latest studies of her perfectly preserved body offer an unprecedented glimpse into her life in the months leading up to her death – possibly from hypothermia – and raise questions about the extent to which she was aware of, and accepted, the fate that had been mapped out for her.
The frozen body of the 13-year-old Maiden was entombed in a small chamber 1.5 metres underground near the summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina, together with the bodies of two 4 or 5-year-olds. With the blood still visible in their hearts and their lungs inflated, the three are probably the best-preserved mummies anywhere in the world, says Andrew Wilson at the University of Bradford in the UK. “They look very recognisable as individuals, which adds to the poignancy of their story.”
The children were the centrepiece of an elaborate capacocha ritual – the Inca practice of child sacrifice used to mark important events in the emperor’s life. What we know about the ritual comes from 17th-century Spanish accounts, but they reveal little from the children’s perspective. The mummies, in particular that of the Maiden, help fill that gap.
Mass child sacrifice site reveals its horrific secrets
Scientists discovered the mummified remains of 140 children at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas in Peru, an archaeological site believed to be where ritual sacrifices took place in the 15th-century.
Experts have revealed the gruesome details of a 15th-century ritual sacrifice site in Peru that contains the remains of more than 140 children.
In a new study on the archaeological site at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, archaeologists explain that the children’s hearts were apparently ripped from their bodies. The grisly location, which is near the UNESCO world heritage site of Chan Chan, is the largest known mass sacrifice site of children in the Americas, they say.
The remains of over 200 llamas, or possibly alpacas, were also discovered across an area spanning more than 7,000 square feet. “Cut marks transecting the sternums and displaced ribs suggest both the children and llamas may have had their chests cut open, possibly during ritual removal of the heart,” scientists explain, in a statement. Analysis of the human remains reveals that they were boys and girls aged between 5 and 14.
An international team of researchers led by Gabriel Prieto of the National University of Trujillo compiled details of excavations conducted between 2011 and 2016. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Archaeologists were stunned by the scale of the ritual sacrifice site. (John Verano, 2019)
Radiocarbon dating indicates that the remains are from around 1450 A.D., a time when Huanchaquito-Las Llamas was part of the Chimu culture. “A thick layer of mud overlaying the burial sediments indicates that this mass killing was preceded, and perhaps inspired, by a major rainstorm or flood,” they explain in the statement.
Experts were stunned to find such a huge mass sacrifice site in northern coastal Peru, some 350 miles north of Lima.
"This archaeological discovery was a surprise to all of us — we had not seen anything like this before …” said Tulane University Anthropology Professor John Verano, who is one of the study’s authors, in a statement. “This site opens a new chapter on the practice of child sacrifice in the ancient world."
The researchers note that the ritual sacrifice was “a large investment of resources for the Chimu culture” and hope to reveal more details about the sacrificed children.
Other grisly sacrificial sites have been revealing their secrets. A vast array of skulls buried beneath the streets of modern Mexico City, for example, have offered a chilling glimpse into Aztec human sacrifice.
LiveScience reports that hundreds of Mayan artifacts that may have been used in ritual animal sacrifices have been discovered at the bottom of a Guatemalan lake.
Mummified Child Sacrifice - History
Dagmara Socha Incas considered children to be pure, thus making them the ideal human sacrifice to offer the gods.
New research on the remains of a handful of Inca child sacrifice victims has given scientists more clues as to how this sacrificial practice was carried out, and even more information about the children themselves.
Newsweek reports that researchers believe the victims’ bodies were purposefully left on stone platforms high at the top of a volcano so that they could be struck by lightning. Whether or not a sacrificed child was hit by lightning would let the Incas know if the sacrifice was accepted by the gods.
“According to the Incas, a person struck by lightning received great honor — a god expressed interest in that person,” said Dagmara Socha, a bioarchaeologist at the University of Warsaw. She spoke with PAP, a science news outlet run by the Polish government.
For this study, researchers examined the remains of six children found on two volcanoes in Peru, Ampato and Pichu Pichu. The remains were first discovered decades ago by Dr. Johan Reinhard and are in varying states of preservation. In order to examine the valuable specimens without causing more damage, the scientists used advanced x-ray imaging and 3D modeling.
Dagmara Socha Skull of a boy sacrificed at the Ampato volcano in Peru, showing signs of a lightning strike.
Socha and her study co-author, Rudi Chavez Perea, the director of the Museo Santuarios Andinos of the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa in Peru, found several clues that hinted at the lightning strikes endured by the children’s bodies.
Some the remains, which were sacrificed some 500 years ago, had burn marks on their soft tissue and their clothing. The stone platforms where their bodies were left also showed signs of being struck repeatedly while the soil around the sacrificial sites appeared to have crystallized from the impact of the bolts.
Socha and Perea also found some clues as to where these children came from.
One female victim, dubbed “Lightning Girl” by scientists, showed a deliberately elongated head which was a common practice among Incas living in the coastal areas, not those in the high mountains.
There were also irregularities in the girl’s tooth enamel structure, which indicate that she was either starved or experienced a great deal of stress at one point, likely when she was about three years old.
“I suppose it was then that the girl was taken away from her parents and brought to Cuzco, the capital of the Inca empire, where the girl was being prepared for three years to be sacrificed at the top of the volcano,” Socha hypothesized.
Peruvian Ministry of Culture In 2016, archaeologists discovered 17 graves of children who had been sacrificed by the Incas in Peru.
Previous research which examined hair samples from the child victims suggests they were chosen many years in advance, and were “fattened up” before their deaths.
The isotope analysis of these hair samples also indicated that the children were drugged with alcohol and coca plants — from which cocaine is derived — before they were killed. Researchers believe it helped sedate them.
One of the mummified child victims, known by researchers as the “Llullaillaco Maiden,” was found with a lump of chewed coca leaves in her mouth.
The Incas believed it to be a great honor for a family to have a child taken as a sacrifice. But how were the children chosen? Archaeologists aren’t entirely sure but, according to Socha, “they certainly had to have some exceptional traits, such as beauty or ancestry.”
Next, the team plans to conduct more analyses on the children’s remains, which are kept in cold storage at the Museo Sancturios Andinos. They plan to study tooth samples so they can determine the victims’ diets and places of origin, which, hopefully, will shed more light on these lost lives.
Now, read the story of Roy Sullivan, the man who got struck by lightning seven times and lived, and learn about the Inca “princess” mummy that was returned to Bolivia after 129 years.
I will sacrifice you
Every 18 months the Aztecs held a cycle, and within each of the 18 months there was ritual sacrifice. The victim would be displayed as part of the ritual, they would then be laid on a slab where their heart would be removed and held up to the sun. Upon the retrieval of the heart the body would be thrown down the stairs of the temple/pyramid. In order to dispose of the body remains, the bodies would be given to animals or put on display (the heads). Some scholars even mentioned that cannibalism was also a method used of to dispose of the bodies. The idea of cannibalism was mentioned because the citizens were going through a famine. However, if cannibalism had been practiced as part of the ceremony, the eating of humans would not have been from the result of hunger or shortage of food, but rather as a way to connect with the Gods.
There were other methods to human sacrifice including being shot with an arrow, drowned, burned, or otherwise mutilated. As to why these sacrifices took place is still debatable. Some critics argue that it was for the overwhelming aspect of Aztec religious life in the imaginations of non-Aztecs. Along with religious reasoning it was also argued that it was ritualistic violence. This had been practiced all throughout the Mesoamerican world, but the Tenochca practiced it on a larger scale, never seen before. We don't know a great deal about the details, but we have a fairly good idea of its general character and justification. Throughout Mesoamerica, the theology involved the concept that the gods gave things to human beings only if they were nourished by human beings. Among the Maya, for instance, the priests would nourish the gods by drawing their own blood by piercing their tongues, ears, extremities, or genitals. Other sacrifices involved prayer, offerings of food, sports, and even dramas. The Aztecs practiced all of these sacrifices, including blood-letting. But the Aztec theologians also developed the notion that the gods are best nourished by the living hearts of sacrificed captives the braver the captive, the more nourishing the sacrifice. This theology led to widespread wars of conquest in search of sacrificial victims both captured in war and paid as tribute by a conquered people.
View the Video below to get a better understanding of Aztec Religion and Culture
Check out these videos to see some of the discoveries archaeologists have made in digs.
Stories That Artefacts Tell
The style of the pottery and its artistic features indicate that she came from the Incan capital, Cusco.
Her ceremonial tunic and headpiece point to her having been the daughter of a local chieftain.
This beautiful, feathered head-dress indicated that she was sequestered into a very special group of women, famous throughout Incan Civilization – the Virgins of the Sun.
Virgins of the Sun
Virgins of the Sun were young girls who, around the age of 10, were chosen, or in some cases endowed by their families, to become servants or sacrifices to the Incan God of Sun.
The Virgins of the Sun had minimal duties, such as preparing offerings to the God. At a certain age, most of these virgin girls would be selected as concubines to the royal Incan court. Only a few of them would be selected as human sacrifices to the Sun God.
On the contrary to how people may react to this proposition today, back then, to be chosen as a sacrifice to the Sun God was a great honor. It was documented by the Incans that the virgins who were given the privilege to be sacrificed were treated as demi-god princesses.
The name Llullaillaco is derived from the Quechua word llulla meaning "false", "lie" or "deceitful" and yaku or llaco meaning "water".  This name probably refers to the meltwater from snow, which flows down the slopes but then is absorbed into the soil.  Normally such mountains are sources for water.  It is possible that it instead refers to the precipitation regime, which starting from Llullaillaco becomes dominated by winter precipitation.  Another translation in Aymara is "hot water". 
Volcanism in the Andes is caused by the subduction of the Nazca Plate and the Antarctic Plate beneath the South America Plate. The Nazca Plate subducts at a speed of 7–9 centimetres per year (2.8–3.5 in/year) and the Antarctic Plate at a speed of 2 centimetres per year (0.79 in/year). Volcanism does not occur along a continuous chain there are four separate regions named: the Northern Volcanic Zone, the Central Volcanic Zone, the Southern Volcanic Zone, and the Austral Volcanic Zone. The formation of magma results from the release of water and other volatile material from the subducting plate, which is then injected into the above-lying mantle wedge. The volcanic zones are separated by areas where the subducting plate subducts at a flatter angle and volcanism is absent. The Peruvian flat slab between the Northern and the Central Volcanic Zones is associated with the subduction of the Nazca Ridge, the Pampean flat slab between the Central and the Southern Volcanic Zone is associated with the subduction of the Juan Fernandez Ridge, and the Patagonian volcanic gap between the Southern and the Austral Volcanic Zone is associated with the Chile Triple Junction. 
About 178 volcanoes are found in the Andes, 60 of which have been active in historical times. In addition, large calderas and monogenetic volcanoes exist in the Andes. 
Local setting Edit
Llullaillaco is part of the Central Volcanic Zone.  At least 44 volcanic centres with historical activity and 18 large caldera-forming volcanoes have been identified in the Central Volcanic Zone.  Volcanism in the Central Volcanic Zone mostly occurs on the Altiplano and the Cordillera Occidental. A number of volcanoes there reach heights of over 6,000 metres (20,000 ft) above sea level. Large Miocene ignimbrites that cover large surfaces are also part of the regional geology.  Llullaillaco is located about 300 kilometres (190 mi) east of the Peru-Chile Trench.  The Wadati-Benioff zone is 180 kilometres (110 mi) deep. 
Llullaillaco is located in the northwestern Argentine Andes,  towards the southern end of the Puna.  The border between Argentina (Salta Province) and Chile crosses the volcano.  It lies in the Puna de Atacama, a region of very high volcanic peaks on a high plateau  close to the Atacama Desert,  one of the driest places in the world. 
17 kilometres (11 mi) farther east  of Llullaillaco lies the Miocene Cerro Rosado volcano (5,383 metres (17,661 ft)). This volcano has erupted dacitic lava flows during the Pliocene-Quaternary on its northeastern and southern flanks.  20 kilometres (12 mi) east of Llullaillaco,  and behind Cerro Rosado, lies the Salar de Llullaillaco (3,750 metres (12,300 ft)  ), a salt pan with warm springs at its western and southwestern shores. There are three abandoned borate mines Mina Amalia and the salt mines Mina Luisa and Mina Maria  and the recent lithium prospect "Proyecto Mariana" at Salar de Llullaillaco.  Mitral mountain (5,015 metres (16,453 ft)) lies southwest of Llullaillaco and is of Miocene age. It features an eroded crater that opens to the northwest.   Iris mountain (5,461 metres (17,917 ft)) north of Llullaillaco is constructed of Pliocene rocks.  Other volcanoes in the neighbourhood are Dos Naciones, Cerro Silla, and Cerro 5074.  Llullaillaco is associated with a local crustal upwarp. 
The volcano Edit
Llullaillaco is a stratovolcano which rises 2,200 metres (7,200 ft) above the surrounding terrain.   The edifice has an elliptical shape with dimensions of 23 by 17 kilometres (14 mi × 11 mi) and has a volume of about 50 cubic kilometres (12 cu mi)   -37 cubic kilometres (8.9 cu mi).  It is formed by thick dacitic lava flows erupted during the Quaternary.  These flows extend away from the volcano and form its summit. An older unit is formed by ignimbrites and pyroclastic flows.  Older lava flows extend west from the volcano and are partly buried by sediments closer to the edifice. These flows reach lengths of 20 kilometres (12 mi) and form about 70% of the surface of the volcano. 
The slopes of the volcano are fairly steep, with an altitude drop of 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) over only 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) horizontal distance.   The slopes high up are steeper than those at lower altitudes.  A crater at 6,100 metres (20,000 ft) altitude was formed early in the development of the Llullaillaco volcano.  Erosion has reduced it to a plateau.  This crater is filled with snow and ice. The ice shows evidence of recent geothermal heating. 
The summit of Llullaillaco is formed by a small cone with about four associated lava domes,  which reach lengths of 1–3 kilometres (0.62–1.86 mi) and have abrupt walls.  Large dacitic coulees emanate from the summit of the volcano and are young in appearance.  One extends north of the volcano and the other one south.  Their overall length is 4.5–8 kilometres (2.8–5.0 mi) and their flow fronts are up to 15 metres (49 ft) thick. Morphologically, these flows are reddish-black aa lava flows and feature blocks with sizes of 5 metres (16 ft).  The southern lava flow is 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) long and was fairly viscous when it was erupted.  It almost reaches a road southwest of the volcano.  These flows feature levees and ridges. At first they were considered to be Holocene, but argon-argon dating indicates they are of late Pleistocene age.  Some traces of glacier activity are found in the summit area. 
At least two stages of construction are recognized, Llullaillaco I and Llullaillaco II. The first stage originated from two centres and is now extensively degraded by glaciation and hydrothermal alteration.  This applies especially to the 5,561 metres (18,245 ft) high Azufrera Esperanto mountain 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of Llullaillaco, where little original volcanic substance is preserved and where erosion has exposed deeply altered white rock.  Llullaillaco II on the southern and northeastern flank is better preserved the toes of the lava flows reach thicknesses of 500 metres (1,600 ft).  Its lava flows are less extensive than the ones of Llullaillaco I.  Pyroclastic flow deposits with a composition similar to Llullaillaco II are found on the southern slope of the volcano and may have formed before the lava eruptions began. 
Volcanism in the Central Volcanic Zone may be affected by deep-seated lineaments, which control where volcanoes and geothermal systems form.  Such lineaments extend diagonally across the volcanic arc and are accompanied by volcanic manifestations at substantial distances from the arc.  One of these lineaments, the Archibarca, runs beneath Llullaillaco and is also associated with the Escondida copper deposit,  Corrida de Cori,  Archibarca, Antofalla,  and the Galán caldera.  Other lineaments include the Calama-El Toro. 
Several dry valleys originate on Llullaillaco, including Quebrada de las Zorritas on the north-northeastern slope, Quebrada El Salado and Quebrada Llullaillaco on the northwestern slope, and Quebrada La Barda on the southwestern slope.  The Quebrada Llullaillaco drains into the Salar de Punta Negra northwest of the volcano.  The volcano is relatively unaffected by water erosion,  water is only episodically present on the mountain.  In addition, there is a lake called the "Llullaillaco volcano lake" on the mountain it is one of the highest lakes in the world. 
Periglacial phenomena are observed on Llullaillaco, commencing at 4,300 metres (14,100 ft) altitude and reaching their maximum around 5,100–5,400 metres (16,700–17,700 ft) on the Chilean and 5,350–5,700 metres (17,550–18,700 ft) on the Argentine side. There, solifluction and cryoplanation surfaces are developed,  including lobe-shaped ground and block ramparts.  These landforms have been mapped on the northwestern side of the volcano.  Patterned ground is also common.  Permafrost is found at higher altitudes.  Cryoplanation and solifluction landforms are also observed on Iris and Mitral.  Other than on periglacially influenced terrain, the ground at Llullaillaco is formed mostly by lavic rocks and block debris, which are frequently buried by tephra. 
Two abandoned sulfur mines can be found north and south of Llullaillaco.  The northern mine is known as Azufrera Esperanto and associated with an area of hydrothermal alteration. A path or road leads up to that mine from northwest. 
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This could have been so cool, but oh my god, the over bearing score, the over drama (as if these people were really tearing up over a child who’d been dead for more than 100 years)… it’s a little insulting.
if it was so bad why did you finish watching it? And what conclusion were they supposed to have drawn? They set out to find out about it and they did, it’s a documentary not a movie. Information, not entertainment bro. And cheap dramatic devices? Would it have been better if it was just plainly narrated?
If you don’t want it, I’ll take it! Jesus…
great summary john, over dramatised with no proper conclusion…… nonsense.
loved the super-amped up excited process to examining the mummified child … i definitely think some fun was had here
A bit over-dramatized and played-up. Some nonsensical sequences (i.e. “injecting” the arterial mixture into a pigs artery…by dripping it in. “It works” says the researcher, as if more than a couple of inches of her waxy formula flowed in, which it did not)
So, definitely dumbed-down.
Also, prone to drawing shaky conclusions for audience-effect. And the final scene where the lead researcher says “we have a decision to make” and then she, essentially, makes the decision feels very contrived.
All in all, a missed opportunity hampered mainly by the lure of cheap dramatic devices and semi-scripted scenes.
they haven’t changed in their attitudes, just advanced their methods.
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Why the Incas offered up child sacrifices
These children [to be sacrificed to the mountain and other gods] would be collected from all over the land and would be carried in litters together … They should be very well dressed, paired up female and male.
Juan de Betanzos, 1551
Human nature would not allow them to kill their own children … if they did not expect some reward for what they were doing or if they did not believe that they were sending their children to a better place.
Bernabé Cobo, 1653
The Incas were an ethnic group of superlatives: although never numbering more than 100,000 individuals, they nevertheless created the largest native empire in the New World, 2,500 miles long, from what is now southern Colombia to central Chile and across some of the world's most mountainous and difficult terrain.
The Incas' breathtaking mastery of their natural environment was acutely brought home to me this weekend as I climbed 2,000ft up a cloud forest trail in south-eastern Peru to Machu Picchu, a royal retreat built for an Inca emperor that clings to a mountain spur 8,000ft up in the Andes. As I wandered about the cloud-wreathed city of gurgling fountains, sacrificial altars, celestial observatories and exquisitely fashioned buildings of white granite blocks – some of which weigh more than 50 tons – I couldn't help but reflect on the sheer genius the Incas obviously possessed.
Although their empire existed for a scant 100 years before being cut short in 1533 by the arrival of the Spaniards, the Incas managed to create 26,000 miles of roads, ruled an empire of 10 million people and imposed their language and culture from one end of the Andes to the other. In a very real sense, the Incas were the "Romans" of the New World and, like the Romans, they were excellent administrators and empire builders. Like the Romans, however, they borrowed many aspects of their culture – from metallurgy and warfare and architecture to agriculture and animal husbandry and astronomy – from other, previous cultures.
They also appropriated, transformed and incorporated elements of many other South American religions, including animal and human sacrifices. Last week the photograph of a 15-year-old Inca girl appeared in the press, a beautiful and unblemished teenager who was sacrificed more than 500 years ago on top of a 22,000ft volcano in northern Argentina. Her mummified body was found by archaeologists in 1999 and is now on display for the first time in a museum in Argentina. Drugged with coca leaves and plied with alcohol, the girl was left to freeze to death high in the Andes, a seemingly senseless death to modern readers. The revelation of the girl's untimely death raises an obvious question: why did the Incas, despite being one of the most powerful, sophisticated and accomplished cultures in the New World, feel the need to sacrifice their children on mountain tops?
The answer can be found in a strange melange of Inca religious beliefs, natural catastrophes, and the sheer difficulty of trying to survive amid the frozen heights of one of the most volatile mountain chains in the world.
The Incas arose in western South America, one of only six areas in the world where state-level societies arose (the others are Mesoamerica, China, Mesopotamia, the Indus valley and Egypt). The Incas were only the latest of a multitude of civilisations that had arisen in western South America and had borrowed from earlier cultures such as the Chimú, Moche, Nazca and Tiwanaku. The Incas began their sudden surge to power in the early 15th century, led by an emperor called Pachacutec, "overturner of worlds".
Through threat, negotiation, or bloody conquest, Pachacutec and his successors began to subjugate nearby provinces, determining the number of taxpaying peasants and installing local Inca governors and administrators before their armies moved on. If co-operative, local elites were allowed to retain their privileged positions and were rewarded for their collaboration. If uncooperative, they were exterminated, with their supporters.
Like other agriculturally based empires, Inca rule was built on reciprocity between the Inca elite and peasants, who were expected to pay taxes in the form of goods and labour in return, the state was expected to provide the empire's citizens with security, laws and administration and also with emergency relief in times of famine or natural catastrophe.
The Incas constructed huge storehouses filled with foods and goods. If one area of the empire suffered drought or some other form of calamity, the Incas withdrew food and supplies from the storehouses and replaced them when local production increased again. If another area was attacked by marauding tribes, Inca armies soon arrived to repel the attackers and restore order. Through their labour tax, a succession of Inca rulers built new cities, constructed networks of roads, marshalled vast armies, erected and filled storehouses, and enlarged their empire.
Although the Incas created a finely tuned imperial state with engineers who could convert rugged rainforest mountains into well-ordered stone cities such as Machu Picchu, even they came up short when it came to the natural calamities that repeatedly struck western South America. The Inca empire straddled the Andes, a mountain chain formed by the continuing collision of a giant tectonic plate called the Nazca plate that slowly smashed into the South American plate, whose western edge also forms the western edge of South America. The Incas thus built their empire within the Pacific's "ring of fire" where volcanoes periodically erupt. Because of the colliding plates, violent earthquakes are common, destroying cities and towns. In addition, the empire was beset by the climatic havoc wreaked by El Niños every seven years, resulting in savage floods that disrupted food supplies.
In response to such natural phenomena, the Incas resorted to religion. In the Inca world, lightning, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, rain, weather and fertility were controlled by a panoply of gods. To survive in an unpredictable world, the Incas sought to form reciprocal relationships with their gods, just as they formed reciprocal relationships with one another, or with other tribes.
The Incas' primary god was the sun god, or Inti, which made agriculture possible. The Inca ruler himself was considered to be the son of the sun god, thus Inca emperors were worshipped and considered divine, inhabiting the apex of a vast theocratic state. To create and maintain relationships with their gods, the Incas gave them a variety of offerings. These ranged from simple prayers, food, coca leaves and woven cloth to animals, blood and, in the ultimate sacrifice, human beings. In especially uncertain times, such as when an emperor died, or when volcanoes erupted or severe earthquakes or famine struck, priests sacrificed captured warriors or specially raised, perfectly formed children to the gods. The Incas believed in an afterlife and that the children they sacrificed would inhabit a better, and more abundantly provided for, world.
Although the Spanish invaders did their best to exterminate Inca religion, the Incas were not the first culture to resort to human sacrifice in times of great stress or need. The Celts of Ireland and Britain frequently made human sacrifices to their gods. Mongols, Scythians, early Egyptians and various Mesoamerican groups all made human sacrifices, for one reason or another. Closer to home, the Greek author Homer wrote of how Iphigenia was set to be sacrificed by her father Agamemnon to ensure success in the Trojan war (he ultimately sacrificed a deer instead). And in the Hebrew Bible, when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, an angel stopped Abraham at the last moment. Abraham sacrificed a ram instead, but only after "learning to fear God".
The Incas did their best to fathom what, at the time, was unfathomable – the violent, unpredictable catastrophes of nature which, in some cases, had ended cultures that preceded them. To their credit, the Incas did their best to ensure the survival of their people and empire by paying close attention to nature and doing their best to use every means at their disposal, including human sacrifice, to gain control over it.
The irony is that, more than 500 years after the Spaniards put an end to perhaps the most spectacular empire in the New World, not only are Andean and worldwide glaciers shrinking at unprecedented rates as the Earth heats up, altering and damaging native ecosystems, but the new cultures that have replaced the Incas seem apathetic, at best, in making any kind of sacrifice in order to gain control over a potentially self-created environmental disaster.
Kim MacQuarrie is a multiple Emmy-winning documentary film-maker, writer and anthropologist who lived for five years in Peru. His most recent book is The Last Days of the Incas, the story of the conquest of the Inca empire
Preparation For Death
Juanita’s life prior to her selection for human sacrifice probably wasn’t all that unusual. Her days leading up to her death, however, were very different than the lifestyle of a typical Inca girl. Scientists were able to use DNA from Juanita’s well-preserved hair to create a timeline of those days and deduce what her diet was like before capacocha.
Markers in her hair indicate that she was selected for sacrifice about a year before her actual death and switched from a standard Inca diet of potatoes and vegetables to the more elite foods of animal protein and maze, along with large quantities of coca and alcohol.
As Andrew Wilson, a forensic and archaeological expert, explained to National Geographic, the final six to eight weeks of life for Inca child sacrifices was one of a very intoxicated psychological state altered by the chemical reaction of coca and chicha alcohol.
Thus archeologists believe that upon Juanita’s death, she was likely in a very docile and relaxed state. While the Incas would eventually perfect this drug mixture — which, coupled with the mountainous high altitudes, would cause the child sacrifices to fall into a permanent sleep — Juanita wasn’t so lucky.
Radiologist Elliot Fishman would discover that Juanita’s death was brought about by a massive hemorrhage from a club blow to the head. Fishman concluded that her injuries were “typical of someone who has been hit by a baseball bat.” After the death blow, her skull swelled with blood, pushing her brain to the side. Had blunt trauma to the head not occurred, her brain would have dried symmetrically in the center of her skull.
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Historical anecdotes, and possible physical evidence such as pockmarks, suggest the virus dates back millennia. But cold, hard DNA from a 17-century mummified child found buried under a Lithuanian church may offer a new timeline for the contagious and sometimes fatal disease./> Enlarge Image
The mummy was first found in 2015 through a collaboration with the Lithuanian Mummy Project.
Kiril Cachovski/Lithuanian Mummy Project
"There have been signs that Egyptian mummies that are 3,000 to 4,000 years old have pockmarked scarring that have been interpreted as cases of smallpox," says Ana Duggan, a postdoctoral fellow at the McMaster University Ancient DNA Center in Canada and primary author of a new study on the findings that appears in the journal Cell Biology.
"The new discoveries," she adds, "really throw those findings into question, and they suggest that the timeline of smallpox in human populations might be incorrect."
The child mummy, which radiocarbon dating places between 1643 and 1665, when several major European and Asian epidemics took hold, was first found in 2015 within the crypt of the Dominican Church of the Holy Spirit in Vilnius.
The remains, thought to be between 2 and 4 years old, didn't show visual signs of the disease.
They did, however, yield a complete genome for the variola virus ancestral to all known 20th-century smallpox strains. This is the oldest version of the actual virus found, as opposed to scarring that could not be conclusively attributed to variola./> Enlarge Image
Ana Duggan examines a piece of mummified tissue.
JD Howell/McMaster University
The researchers compared DNA taken from the mummy to versions of the variola virus genome dating from the mid-1900s and before smallpox was eradicated in the late 1970s after a successful worldwide vaccination program.
Using techniques that amount to a "molecular clock," they found the samples share a common viral ancestor that originated sometime between 1588 and 1645. Those dates coincide with a period of exploration, migration and colonization that would have helped spread smallpox around the world.
"So now that we have a timeline, we have to ask whether the earlier documented historical evidence of smallpox, which goes back to Ramses V and includes everything up to the 1500s, is real," said co-author Henrik Poinar, director of the Ancient DNA Centre at McMaster University. "Are these indeed real cases of smallpox, or are these misidentifications, which we know is very easy to do, because it is likely possible to mistake smallpox for chicken pox and measles."
The researchers now hope to compare their sample from Lithuania to samples from other outbreaks sweeping other European countries at the same time. More broadly, the scientists hope their work will help virologists continue to trace smallpox and other viruses back through time.
It's an exciting time for mummies. Earlier this week, scientists published research suggesting mummified knees housed in an Italian museum likely belonged to ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertari.