Inca Mummies: 500-Year-Old Child Sacrifice Victims Given Drugs And Alcohol Before Ritual Deaths [STUDY]

on July 30, 2013 4:45 PM EDT

Llullaillaco Maiden
Three Incan mummies, child sacrifice victims discovered in 1999, were fed alcohol and drugs before their deaths, according to a new hair analysis study. Llullaillaco Maiden (above) was the oldest of the child sacrifices at 13 years of age. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

Join the Conversation

Sponsored From Around the Web

    ZergNet
Follow iScience Times
us on facebook RSS
 
us on google
 
Most Popular
INSIDE iScience Times
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
Do Dolphins Get High? BBC Cameras Catch Dolphins Chewing On Pufferfish Toxins
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
How Many Ways Can You Tie A Tie?
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
Ribbon Of Charged Particles At Solar System's Edge Acts Like A Wind Sock For Interstellar Magnetism
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet  Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
How to Turn Your Tap Water Faucet Into a Coffee Spout [VIDEO]
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
Coolest Science Photos Of 2013: From Blobfish To Two-Headed Shark, Comet ISON To Mars Selfie
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)
This Is A Scientifically-Proven Rock-Paper-Scissors Winning Strategy (But If Your Opponent Uses It Too, It's A Draw)