Incan Sacrifice?

DFN: First time I remember reading about the possibility that the Incas participated in human sacrifices.

Blood on Incan mummy sparks international scientific controversy
by Mnet on Fri 23 Oct 2009 07:56 PM BST | Permanent Link | Cosmos

The discovery of large blood stains on the clothing of a seven-year-old boy sacrificed by the Incan Empire 500 years ago divides archaeologists over how he could have died.

SALTA , ARGENTINA REUTERS – Visitors at the Museum of High Mountain Archaeology in Argentina can look straight into the face of an Incan girl who was sacrificed on a mountaintop in the Andes some 500 years ago.

It is a rare opportunity to see one of the world’s best-preserved mummies close up.

This Incan girl was just six-years-old when she was killed to appease the mountain deities and ensure the emperor’s well-being.

Her body was unearthed by archaeologists 10 years ago on the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, at 6,739 metres (22,110 feet) above sea level in Argentina’s northeast.

Alongside her were the bodies of a seven-year-old boy and a 15-year-old maiden, surrounded by food offerings and ornaments.

It was believed that all three of the children were drugged and buried alive, but now large blood stains found on the clothing of one of the mummies has set off new theories that their deaths could have been more violent than previously thought.

Forensic anthropologist Angelique Corthals from the John Jay College for Criminal Justice believes the stains could indicate one of the children had been hit or beaten to death.

"When I retrieved a part of the stain it was very clear very quickly that that was mainly blood. And it was not a little bit of blood, it was a lot of blood. So, this indicated to me that it was not, it was very likely not just high altitude pulmonary edema, but it could be. But it may also have been, the pulmonary edema, may also have been triggered by a blunt chest trauma," Corthals said.

The mummy with the blood stains is the seven-year-old boy, who is also kept at Museum of High Mountain Archaeology.

Two out of the three bodies are kept in special refrigeration chambers out of public view to safeguard them in the event of a system breakdown in the exhibition centre.

Identifiable by his tightly-wrapped bindings, this is the seven-year-old boy seen here.

Freezing temperatures in the isolated mountain summit where they were buried is what naturally mummified these bodies, and these oxygen-reduced tanks maintained at -20 degrees Celsius [-4 degrees Fahrenheit] keep the bodies preserved.

Corthals says that CT scans used study the boy’s internal organs show that double-walled sack surrounding his heart was also quite extended, further indicating a blunt chest trauma.

But the scientists that work with the Llullaillaco mummies are far from convinced the evidence suggests the boy had been beaten.

"I think [the evidence] coincides with what the Spanish chroniclers said, which is to say they got them drunk and drugged and then they were buried. Because with the position [the bodies were in] and the results from the CT scans and of all of the macroscopic studies that they did on the bodies we don’t have any signs that there was violence to that degree," said archaeologist Cristian Vitry, one of the experts that participated in the expedition which first discovered the Llullaillaco mummies.

The focus of the Museum of High Mountain Archaeology is the continuing preservation of the mummies and the more than 100 objects found alongside them.

In the Incan tradition, sacrificed children were considered privileged to have been chosen to lead a new life among the gods.

Textiles, pottery, gold statues and other offerings were buried with them to prepare them for the afterlife.

Experts at the museum say this frame of mind is important to remember when hypothesizing on how the children died.

"All of the analysis that is done on the nature of their deaths has to be carried out with a lot of responsibility and scientific rigor. It has to be carried out by forensic doctors, who are effectively the people that are responsible for examining these types of cases. And well, as I said, it is important to analyze it with a lot of responsibility and sensitivity because they are human bodies and they form part of a culture that is still alive in our region that requires and demands a great respect. So it definitely can’t be treated lightly when you are studying what were the real causes of the deaths," said Mario Bernaski, the engineer who designed the museum’s refrigeration and atmosphere control system.

As science develops, there is no doubt that the spectacularly-preserved Children of Llullaillaco, with their ritually-deformed craniums, will continue to reveal more secrets of their ancient past.


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