“Lady of Ampato” – A Cruel Death as a Human Sacrifice to the Inca Gods

Margie Jones

“Lady of Ampato” – A Cruel Death as a Human Sacrifice to the Inca Gods

Peru – The discovery of a remarkably well-preserved mummy of a young Inca girl a top the Ampato volcano in 1995 captured the world’s attention and shed light on the religious practice of human sacrifice in pre-Columbian South America. Dubbed the “Ice Maiden” or “Lady of Ampato”, the mummy has been the subject of extensive research, yet many mysteries remain about her life and death. Now, a new study offers fresh insights into the unknown truth of the Ice Maiden.

Led by Johan Reinhard, a renowned explorer and archaeologist, the team of scientists conducted a multidisciplinary investigation of the mummy, using state-of-the-art techniques such as high-resolution CT scanning, proteomics, and stable isotope analysis. Their findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, challenge some of the long-held assumptions about the Ice Maiden’s age, status, and cause of death.

“Our study reveals that the Ice Maiden was likely older than previously estimated, perhaps around 18 years old, and may have been a noblewoman rather than a commoner,” Reinhard said in a press release. “Moreover, we found no evidence of physical trauma or poisoning, which casts doubt on the theory that she was sacrificed or murdered.”

Instead, the researchers propose a new scenario based on the cultural context and the mummy’s physical and chemical profile. They suggest that the Ice Maiden may have died of hypothermia or altitude sickness while participating in a ritual pilgrimage to the mountain summit, which was considered a sacred site and a gateway to the afterlife. The team argues that the Ice Maiden’s elaborate clothing and ornaments, as well as the presence of coca leaves and maize in her stomach, indicate that she was well-prepared and respected for her role as a ceremonial attendant.

“The Ice Maiden is a rare and precious example of the Inca worldview and its complex interactions between humans and nature,” Reinhard said. “We hope that our study will contribute to a deeper appreciation of the Ice Maiden’s life and legacy, and to a more nuanced understanding of the Inca civilization as a whole.”

The Ice Maiden is currently housed at the Museo Santuarios Andinos in Arequipa, Peru, where she is displayed in a specially designed chamber that simulates the freezing conditions of the mountaintop. Her well-preserved features, braided hair, and enigmatic expression continue to fascinate and inspire people around the world, offering a glimpse into the past and a reminder of the enduring human spirit.

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