Children of Llullaillaco
The Children of Llullaillaco or Children of the Cold are mummies discovered by Dr. Johan Reinhard and his archaeological team on 16 March 1999 at Mount Llullaillaco, which lies on the border of Chile and Argentina. The burial is believed to have taken place 500 years before. They are said to be the best preserved Inca mummies of all time.
Three days into their search for Inca sacrifice sites, Reinhard's team discovered the grave site containing two girls and one boy. Several gold, shell and silver statues, textiles and pottery were also found. The younger girl's body had been struck by lightning, causing burn damage across her body. The other two mummies remained in good condition. Statues made of precious metals and textiles were among the grave goods found.
The oldest mummy, a girl found to be around the age of fifteen, was dubbed "La Doncella" which translates to "The Maiden". A bacterial infection was discovered in her lungs during an examination. She wore a dress with her hair braided, along with a headdress. DNA testing indicated that the two girls were half sisters, where the boy had no relation. La Doncella had been drugged by coca leaves and a maize beer known as chicha, dying in her sleep, which was also present on the other mummies.
It is believed that La Doncella was an aclla, or Sun Virgin. That is, she was chosen and sanctified as a toddler to live with other girls and women who would become royal wives, priestesses, and sacrifices. The practice of ritual sacrifice in the Inca society was to ensure health, rich harvests and preferable weather.
"La niña del rayo", or "Lightning Girl" was approximately six years old when she was sacrificed. Her face and part of her shoulder were damaged by a lightning strike that occurred after her death.
The body of the boy had been tightly wrapped, as some of his ribs and pelvis were dislocated. He apparently died under stress, as vomit and diarrhea was found on his clothing. He was the only child that was tied up.
The mummies remain on display at the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in Argentina.
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