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Anastasia Pivnyuk

35 years, Russia

2 years ago

Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama

In 1999, three children mummified bodies were found on the summit of the Llullaillaco volcano, in the West Cordillera of the Andes, between the border of Chile and Argentina: one 4 to 5 years old boy and two girls, each 5 and 13 years old.

Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: Constanza Ceruti
Inca priests sacrificed three children to the gods, on the top of the volcano Llullaillaco, 500 years ago.

Johan Reinhard, a hero of archeology, dedicated 20 years to the excavations in the Andes and found more than 20 mummies. In 1999, he set out to carry out archaeological research on the top of the volcano Llullaillaco.

Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: National Geographic
The archeological research took place in painful conditions. The first one consisted in the 6706 meters high altitude of the Andes highlands. The second one, cold weather, almost killed one of the members of the expedition. He had lung edema. And, finally, the heavy wind that did not subside either during day or night.

These children were members of the Inca civilization and, unfortunately, were victims of the capaccio (Capacocha) ritual.

Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: National Geographic
Capacocha consists in sacrifices of children by the Incas. This ritual started to be performed after the death of the Inca king. A child was chosen for the ritual,which was held in solemn procession from the village until Cuzco, the heart of the Inca empire. There, on a special sacrificial platform, the child was killed (sometimes choked, and in other cases, the skull was broken). It is worth noting that, long time before the sacrifice, the child was crammed with coca leaves and soldered with alcohol.
Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: National Geographic
Children's mummies were found in three separate chambers, located on a ceremonial platform. The bodies are very well preserved, since the top of the volcano is always  covered with ice.

The 13-year-old sacrificed girl became the main object of research. She was found dressed, sitting with crossed legs and arms. Her head is tilted, the eyes closed and there is no sign of fear on her face. Moreover, many manage to see a smile on her face. The child was very calm, despite the fact that she was doomed to death. This can be explained by the condition of her hair. After conducting their analysis, scientists found out that about a year before the sacrifice, the girl was spiked with coca leaves and watered with alcohol. Leaves of coca are preserved even in the mouth of the mummy.

Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: National Geographic
Approximately six weeks before her death, the girl was given alcohol intensively. The same was done with the younger children, but in smaller quantities. The bodies were lying on the top of the volcano for 500 years, but they look as if the children were killed a few days ago.
Secrets kept by mountains of Puna de Atacama
Copyright: National Geographic
However, these mummies aren’t the only archaeological discovery. 36 statuettes of gold, silver and sea shells, some of which reaching incredible sizes, were dug. About half of the figurines are in ritual vestments.

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