Primary Source

Mummified Inca Child Sacrifices [Archaeology]

Annotation

The top photograph shows the mummified remains of the 15-year-old Inca child, known as the "Llullaillaco Maiden," who was sacrificed with two other children, a boy of seven years old, shown in the photograph below, and a six-year-old girl, whose mummy had been struck by lightning and was charred. The children had walked or been brought to the top of Mt. Llullaillco, in northern Argentina, elevation 22,000 feet (6706 meters), a volcano near the Chilean border today. According to archaeologists and cultural historians, the children were victims of a sacrificial ritual called capacocha. The children were chosen for their beauty and possibly nobility, honored by their selection, and well-fed and cared for before their ritual deaths. According to Inca beliefs, such children were to serve as guardians over their villages from the heights of the mountains, joining the ancestors and honored in death. Before their deaths, they had participated in ceremonies at Cuzco, possibly walking hundreds of miles. They were taken to the top of Mt. Llullaillaco. Their deaths may have been painless, as they were given chicha, a strong alcoholic beverage made from maize. The older girl had pieces of coca leaves on her mouth. They would have fallen asleep from intoxication before they were placed in burial niches where they froze to death in the thin air.

The children wore shoes or slippers as well as colorful clothing elaborately decorated with metal, bone, and cords. The children were not wrapped into bundles, but loosely wrapped in shawls. They sat cross-legged or crouched as they would have fallen asleep. The older girl’s face, which showed red ochre markings, was creased from the place it rested on her shawl. The girl’s long hair was plaited into fine braids that are still fully intact. Among the artifacts placed with them were figurines donning headdresses decorated with colorful bird feathers.

Source

Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana, Salta, Argentina, http://www.maam.org.ar/?seccion=expoperm&seccion2=ninos&nroimagen=6 and http://www.maam.org.ar/?seccion=expoperm&seccion2=ninos&nroimagen=8. Annotated by Susan Douglass.

How to Cite This Source

"Mummified Inca Child Sacrifices [Archaeology]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #352, http://chnm.gmu.edu/cyh/primary-sources/352 (accessed September 20, 2014).