Mummy Juanita: The Sacrifice of the Inca Ice Maiden
Momia Juanita is the name given to an Incan girl from the 15th century was discovered in Peru in 1995. This is also known as ‘the lady of Ampato’ and the ‘Inca Ice Maiden,’ the first as a dormant volcano located in the Andes, on top of Mount Ampato, and the second as its skeleton was frozen on the mountain due to its frigid temperatures.
Researchers proposed that Mummy Juanita was a survivor of a large Incan sacrificial ritual, known as Capacocha and often interpreted as a royal obligation. Momia Juanita ‘s medical research has uncovered some fascinating facts concerning her life and death.
The discovery of Momia Juanita was made by the archeologist Johan Reinhard and his assistant Miguel Zarate on September 8, 1995. This discovery was made possible due to the melting of the snowcapping of Mount Ampato, caused by volcanic ash from a volcano eruption in the area.
The mummy was uncovered due to melting and tumbled down the cliff, where it was later discovered by Reinhard and Zarate. During a second expedition up the mountain in October of the same year, the frozen mummies of two more individuals were uncovered in a lower area of Mount Ampato.
According to researchers, Momia Juanita was only between 12 and 15 years old when she died. The two individuals discovered a month later were also children, and it has been speculated that they may have been companion sacrifices to Mummy Juanita’s on the top of the mountain.
According to researchers, Momia Juanita was sacrificed as part of a rite known as Capacocha. This rite required the Inca to sacrifice the best and healthiest amongst them. This was done in an attempt to appease the gods, thereby ensuring a good harvest, or to prevent some natural disaster. Based on the location where the girl was sacrificed, it has been suggested that the ritual may have been connected to the worship of Mount Ampato.
When Momia Juanita was discovered, she was wrapped up in a bundle. Apart from the remains of the young girl, the bundle also contained various artifacts, including numerous miniature clay statues, shells, and gold objects.
These were left as offerings to the gods. Archaeologists have proposed that these objects, along with food, coca leaves, and chicha, an alcoholic drink distilled from corn, would have been brought by the priests as they led the girl up the mountain.
The latter two would have been used to sedate the child, said to be a common practice used by the Incas before they sacrificed their victims. Once the victim was in this intoxicated state, the priests would carry out the sacrifice.
In the case of Momia Juanita, it was revealed with radiology, that a club blow to the head caused massive hemorrhage, resulting in her death.
Another scientific analysis that revealed interesting information about Momia Juanita’s life is the isotopic analysis of her hair, which was made possible as it was so well preserved. This analysis provided researchers with information about the girl’s diet.
It indicates that this girl was selected as a sacrificial victim about a year before her actual death. This is marked by a change in diet, which was revealed through the isotopic analysis of her hair.