Inca Mummies: 500-Year-Old Child Sacrifice Victims Given Drugs And Alcohol Before Ritual Deaths [STUDY]
Three Incan mummies who were part of a child sacrifice were given drugs and alcohol before their deaths, researchers have determined, giving historians new insight into the pre-Colombian practice of capacocha.
Like Us on Facebook
By studying the hair of the three mummies, one boy and one girl four- or five-years-old, as well as a 13-year-old girl, researchers found that the children consumed coca leaves (the source of cocaine) and a maize-based alcohol called chicha, possibly to make the children less resistant to their own sacrifice. The 13-year-old had coca leaves in her teeth.
The Incan mummies were discovered in 1999 on the 22,110-foot summit of the Llullaillaco volcano in northern Argentina. Dead for 500 years, the three Incan mummies were found in individual stone tombs and were in a deep freeze, and represent "arguably the best naturally preserved assemblage of mummies found anywhere in the world," said study author Andrew Wilson from the University of Bradford in England.
The long hair of the 13-year-old, Llullaillaco Maiden, was particularly revealing. Hair grows about a centimeter a month, and each length of hair gives clues to a person's diet at a particular time. The researchers found that Llullaillaco Maiden was probably a peasant, as her early diet consisted of potatoes and common vegetables; she switched to "elite" food in the last year of her life, including maize and llama meat, when she was being prepared for sacrifice.
The younger Incan mummies, Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl -- the girl is so named because she was believed to have been struck by lightning -- had shorter hair, and thus didn't have as much of a history to be studied by scientists. Wilson said that the coca and alcohol levels found in Llullaillaco Maiden suggest she might not have been thrilled about her impending sacrifice.
"The fact that in her final weeks the maiden shows consistently higher levels of coca and alcohol use compared to the younger children suggests there was a greater need to sedate her in the final weeks of life," Wilson said.
In the ritual of capacocha, the Incan practice of child sacrifice, children were often killed by a blow to the head, but these three Incan mummies showed no evidence of that. They most likely died of exposure, the researchers said.
"The exciting thing about these individuals is that they probably still have much more to tell us," Wilson said. "Locked in their tissues are many stories still to unfold."
The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.