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Shocker: 15 year old girl from the Incan Empire frozen for 500 years, Now On Display

Unearthed in 1999 from the 22,000-foot summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano 300 miles west of here near the Chilean border, their frozen bodies were among the best preserved mummies ever found, with internal organs intact, blood still present in the heart and lungs, and skin and facial features mostly unscathed. No special effort had been made to preserve them. The cold and the dry, thin air did all the work. They froze to death as they slept, and 500 years later still looked like sleeping children, not mummies.

Although the mummies captured headlines when they were found, officials here decided to open the exhibit quietly, without any of the fanfare or celebration that might have been expected.
“These are dead people, Indian people,” said Gabriel E. Miremont, 39, the museum’s designer and director. “It’s not a situation for a party.”
The two other mummies have not yet been shown, but will be put on display within the next six months or so.
The children were sacrificed as part of a religious ritual, known as capacocha. They walked hundreds of miles to and from ceremonies in Cuzco and were then taken to the summit of Llullaillaco (yoo-yeye-YAH-co), given chicha (maize beer), and, once they were asleep, placed in underground niches, where they froze to death. Only beautiful, healthy, physically perfect children were sacrificed, and it was an honor to be chosen. According to Inca beliefs, the children did not die, but joined their ancestors and watched over their villages from the mountaintops like angels.

The bodies seemed so much like sleeping children that working with them felt “almost more like a kidnapping than archaeological work,” Dr. Miremont said.
One of the children, a 6-year-old girl, had been struck by lightning sometime after she died, resulting in burns on her face, upper body and clothing. She and the boy, who was 7, had slightly elongated skulls, created deliberately by head wrappings — a sign of high social status, possibly even royalty.
Scientists worked with the bodies in a special laboratory where the temperature of the entire lab could be dropped to 0 degrees Fahrenheit, and the mummies were never exposed to higher temperatures for more than 20 minutes at a time, to preventing thawing.
DNA tests revealed that the children were unrelated, and CT scans showed that they were well nourished and had no broken bones or other injuries. La Doncella apparently had sinusitis, as well as a lung condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, possibly the result of an infection.

“There are two sides,” Dr. Miremont said. “The scientific — we can read the past from the mummies and the objects. The other side says these people came from a culture still alive, and a holy place on the mountain.”
Some regard the exhibit as they would a church, Dr. Miremont said.
“To me, it’s a museum, not a holy place,” he said. “The holy place is on top of the mountain.”
The mountains around Salta are home to at least 40 other burial sites from ritual sacrifices, but Dr. Miremont said the native people who live in those regions do not want more bodies taken away.
“We will respect their wishes,” Dr. Miremont said, adding that three mummies were enough. “It is not necessary to break any more graves. We would like to have good relations with the Indian people.”

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