Face of Peruvian mummy reconstructed 500 years after ‘sacrifice to Incan gods’

Margie Jones
17/11/2023

Some 500 years ago, a finely dressed and well-fed noble Incan girl around twelve to fourteen years old was sacrificed on the cold heights of Ampato Volcano in Arequipa, alongside other youths. The aim was probably to procure protection from the gods against future volcanic activity. Cold temperatures perfectly preserved their bodies, but the ice mummies were hidden from sight until the volcanic ash from the eruption of nearby Sabancaya volcano caused part of the glacier to melt. Much of the burial site likely fell into the crater when this happened, but Juanita and the other mummies were discovered around the crater in 1995 during an expedition directed by Johan Reinhard. In the vicinity, spondyllus, diverse Andean grains and plants, and several gold statues were also found.

Face of Peruvian mummy reconstructed 500 years after 'sacrifice to Incan gods'

The girl, dubbed ‘Juanita’ and the ‘Inca Ice Maiden’, was found on the snow-capped Ampato volcano at a dizzying altitude of more than 6,000 metres

THE face of Peru’s most famous mummy has been revealed in a 3D reconstruction more than 500 years after her death.

The teen girl was likely sacrificed to ‘appease’ Incan gods atop an icy peak in the Andes half a millennium ago.

 

According to anthropological studies, Juanita was sacrificed between 1440 and 1450 A.D., when she was between 13 and 15 years oldCredit: AP

 

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A replica of her skull, body scans, DNA studies, ethnological characteristics, age and complexion where used to bring Juanita’s model to lifeCredit: AP

The girl, dubbed ‘Juanita’ and the ‘Inca Ice Maiden’ after the discovery of her preserved body, has been recreated into a life-like silicone bust.

According to anthropological studies, Juanita was sacrificed between 1440 and 1450 A.D., when she was between 13 and 15 years old.

A CT scan has also confirmed that the probable cause of death was a severe blow to the head, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

A team of Polish and Peruvian scientists worked with a Swedish sculptor specialising in facial reconstructions to create the bust.

The reconstruction was unveiled at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa on Tuesday.

“I thought I’d never know what her face looked like when she was alive,” said Johan Reinhard, the US anthropologist who found the mummy in 1995.

Reinhard found Juanita on the snow-capped Ampato volcano at a dizzying altitude of more than 6,000 metres.

“Now 28 years later, this has become a reality thanks to Oscar Nilsson’s reconstruction,” he added.

Reinhard has uncovered more than 14 Inca human sacrifices high in the Andes.

It was a common practice among ancient Incan civilisations.

In 2018, archaeologists uncovered more than 140 children near modern-day Trujillo, who were sacrificed about 550 years ago.

Researchers believe it is perhaps the largest single mass child sacrifice event in human history.

The model of Juanita’s face is the culmination of “about 400 hours of work”, Nilsson, the sculptor behind the project, told The Associated Press (AP).

Researchers, alongside Nilsson, first obtained a replica of the skull to create the reconstruction.

They then used additional body scans, DNA studies, ethnological characteristics, age and complexion to bring the model to life.

“These findings have helped us better understand her life and the Inca culture,” said Reinhard.

“Now we can see what she really looked like, which makes her even more alive.”

 

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