Capacocha

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The replica of the Plomo Mummy on display at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Santiago, Chile

Capacocha or Qhapaq hucha[1] (Quechua qhapaq noble, principal, mighty, royal, hucha crime, sin, guilt[2][3] Hispanicized spellings Capac cocha, Capaccocha, Capacocha, also qhapaq ucha), also qhapaq ucha) was an important sacrificial rite among the Inca that typically involved the sacrifice of children.[4] The phrase Capacocha has also been translated to mean "solemn sacrifice" or "royal obligation."[4] The rationale for this type of sacrificial rite has typically been understood as the Inca trying to ensure that humanity's best were sent to join their deities.[5] Capacocha ceremonies took place under several circumstances. Some were undertaken as the result of key events in the life of the Sapa Inca, the Inca Emperor, such as illness, his death, his succession to the throne, or the birth of a son.[6] At other times, Capacocha ceremonies were undertaken to stop natural disasters or were performed during major festivals at important ceremonial sites.[6][7] At other times, capacocha ceremonies were undertaken to stop natural disasters or were performed during major festivals at important ceremonial sites.[6]

Capacocha ceremonies were circular in nature, with sacrificial victims and material offerings being brought from local communities in the provinces to the capital of Cuzco before being redistributed to sacred places throughout the empire.[8] This fulfilled political as well as religious goals. As such, capacocha sacrifices were usually not sacrificed in the region from which they originated.[6] Capacocha ceremonies are often associated with high-altitude occurrences and the tops of mountains; however, these rituals were not limited to mountain peaks.[4] Evidence of the practice of capacocha has been found at relatively lower altitudes such as around Lake Titicaca.[4]

Capacocha at Cuzco[edit]

The capacocha sacrifice started at the capital city of Cuzco, on the order of the Sapa Inca. The first Sapa Inca to do this sacrifice was Pacha Kuti.[9][10] The offering began in the city with some of the children, while other children were sacrificed in other locations and huacas, around the kingdom, as this large sacrifice trickled down so no location was left out of the offering. If a huaca was forgotten or left out, it could cause political uproar or displease the Gods.

Child Sacrifices[edit]

Victims of child sacrifice were children of both genders, chosen for looks, and no region was exempt from the recruitment of these child sacrifices; they could come from any region of the empire.[5] The male victims were no older than ten and girls could be up to age sixteen but must be a virgin when chosen; they had to be perfect, unblemished by even a freckle or scar.[11] When they were looking for tributes the children would be sent along with other goods of tribute, like silver and gold, and camelids.[5] Until the time of the sacrifice, the tributes were fed well, and those too young to eat would have their mothers with them to breastfeed.[11] This was to ensure that they would be well fed and happy when they reach the gods.[11] The children were paired off, girl and boy, and dressed finely like little royals.[5] They were paraded around four large statues, of the Creator, the Sun God, the Moon God, and the Thunder God.[5] The Sapa Inca would say to the priests then to divide the children, along with the other sacrifices, in four, for each of the four suyos.[5] He would then order the priests to make their sacrifices at their main huaca.[5] Then some children were cut open to have their hearts removed and others strangled.[5] Their blood was used as paint on the idolic statues of the gods in the rest of the ceremony.[11] When the sacrifices of children and material offerings were buried, the holes couldn't be made using any metal, but in the ceremony dug out using sharpened sticks.[11]

The surviving children were sacrificed at very important mountain-top shrines, alongside gold, silver and spondylus, as archaeological findings show.[5][8] Waves of offerings would be distributed throughout the empire from this sacrificial offering, so that every region had a piece of it; if a huaca was missed, it would be an insult and could jeopardize the Sapa Inca's rule.[9]

Sacrifice was primarily carried out through four methods: strangulation, a blow to the head, suffocation, or being buried alive while unconscious.[6] Some Spanish records tell of Incas removing the victims hearts, but no evidence of this has been found in the archaeological record; it seems more likely that this practice was witnessed by the Spaniards among the Aztecs and wrongly attributed to the Incas as well.[6] To the great gods, the Creator, the Sun, the Moon and the Thunder, prayers were made to keep the Sapa Inca safe and to guard the people of the empire.[5] The prayers also begged the gods to keep the Sapa Inca young, to save his sons, and their children forever.[9]

Mama-Kuna and Chosen Women[edit]

While the boys were immediately brought to Cuzco, the young girls taken for sacrifice were often entrusted to the mama-kuna, in the "House of Chosen Women" (aqlla wasi).[10] Chosen for their looks, the girls were taught to weave and sew here for an extended time. The mama-kuna women were compared to nuns by many Spanish men, as they lived celibate lives, serving the Gods.[10] There were three groups the girls were divided into. Some girls never left and went on to raise the girls brought after them, and the prettiest were sent as tribute.[10] The rest from the girls brought to become Chosen Women became slaves and concubines in Cuzco, for the noblemen.[10]

Typical Offerings[edit]

A number of offerings were often left with the sacrificed individuals at the sites of capacocha ceremonies. The human body itself was often finely dressed and clothed in a feathered headdress and other ornamentation such as a necklace or bracelet.[8] The most elaborate artifacts were typically paired human statuettes and llama figurines that have been crafted with gold, silver, and spondylus.[5] The combination of both male and female figurines alongside the use of both gold and silver was likely meant to pay tribute to the male Sun and the female Moon.[5] Several sets of ceramics as well as gold, silver, and bronze pins were relatively commonplace too.[4] A large amount of cloth was not an atypical find at capacocha sites either.[4] Some objects that often appear such as plates and bowls have often been found in pairs.[8] Alongside these objects are sometimes found food items.[8]

High Altitude Sites[edit]

Special attention was paid by the Inca to a number of ceremonial sites at very high elevations.[5] Over 100 ceremonial centers and shrines were built within Inca territories on or near the high summits of the Andes Mountains.[8] These sites were often meant to function both religiously and politically. Some mountains were viewed as origin places or the home to important mountain deities.[5] Building shrines on these mountains both paid homage to the deities and also placed an imperial stamp on areas important to local beliefs, fulfilling both religious and political goals.[5][8] In a number of instances, typically at the most important of these mountains, these sites contain the mummified remains of children sacrificed in capacocha ceremonies.[5][8] Capacocha ceremonies at these important locations held a great deal of weight.

Travel to these sites would have involved a procession of priests, the children who would be sacrificed, and a number of other important individuals throughout the empire.[6] Different peoples would assist with the procession as the group moved throughout the different regions of the empire.[6] These sites were difficult to reach and even more difficult to work on. In order to increase the ease with which these mountaintop locations could be reached, the Incas built staging stations lower on the mountains and also made paths that lead up to the summit.[5] Some preparation would likely have occurred at tambos situated nearby.[6]

Llullaillaco[edit]

One of the mummies recovered from Llullaillaco.

One particularly noteworthy site was found near the summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano in Argentina that lies near the Chilean border.[12] This mountain appears to have been the site of the conclusion of a capacocha ceremony, taking place at an elevation of around 6,739 meters above sea level.[6] In 1999, the mummies of three relatively young individuals were found at the top of the mountain alongside a diverse assemblage of artifacts.[13] Excavations around the main ceremonial structure, a rectangular platform, revealed the burials of a young woman of about 15 years of age, a girl of about 6 years of age, and a boy of about 7 years of age along with over 100 offerings of various materials.[8][13] Due to the frigid conditions, both the mummies and the materials were incredibly well preserved.[8] Some of the notable artifacts found at the site include a feathered headdress, well-made clothing, a number of ceramics, bowls and spoons made of wood, various food items, figurines made out of gold, silver, and spondylus, and other metal objects such as pins.[8]

Due to the incredible preservation of the children, a number of studies could be undertaken from their remains. Hair samples indicate that the diets of the children underwent a momentous change in the year before their deaths.[13] This helps to indicate the care with which children were treated during their travels throughout the empire prior to their ultimate sacrifice.[13] Other changes in the isotopes found in the hair samples indicate that the children began their procession to the mountain several months prior to their death.[13] The preservation of both the human remains and the artifacts associated with them has been an invaluable source of information.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Of Summits and Sacrifice: An Ethnohistoric Study of Inka Religious Practices, University of Texas Press, 2009
  2. ^ Teofilo Laime Ajacopa, Diccionario Bilingüe Iskay simipi yuyayk'ancha, La Paz, 2007 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  3. ^ Diccionario Quechua - Español - Quechua, Academía Mayor de la Lengua Quechua, Gobierno Regional Cusco, Cusco 2005 (Quechua-Spanish dictionary)
  4. ^ a b c d e f Valerie A.; Buzon, Michele R.; Gibaja, Arminda M.; McEwan, Gordon F.; Simonetti, Antonio; Creaser, Robert A. (February 2011). "Investigating a child sacrifice event from the Inca heartland". Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2): 323-333. doi:10.1012/j.jas.2010.09.009.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q D'Altroy, Terence N. (2003). The Incas (Reprinted ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 1-4051-1676-5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Reinhard, Johan; Ceruti, Constanza (June 2005). "Sacred Mountains, Ceremonial Sites, and Human Sacrifice Among the Incas". Archaeoastronomy 19: 1-43.
  7. ^ "Sacred Mountains, Ceremonial Sites, and Human Sacrifice Among the Incas". Archaeoastronomy 19: 1-43.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Ceruti, Maria Constanza (March 2004). "Human Bodies as Objects of Dedication at Inca Mountain Shrines (north-western Argentina)". World Archaeology 36 (1): 103*122.
  9. ^ a b c Molina, Cristóbal de; Bauer, Brian S.; Smith-Oka, Vania (2011). Account of the Fables and Rites of the Incas. University of Texas Press. pp. 114–120. ISBN 9780292723832. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Besom, Thomas (2009). Of Summits and Sacrifice : An Ethnohistoric Study of Inka Religious Practices. Austin TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292783041. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Cobo, Bernabe (1990). Inca Religion and Customs. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292738617. 
  12. ^ Grady, Denise (2007-09-11). "In Argentina, a Museum Unveils a Long-Frozen Maiden". The New York Times.
  13. ^ a b c d e Andrushko, Valerie A.; Buzon, Michele R.; Gibaja, Arminda M.; McEwan, Gordon F.; Simonetti, Antonio; Creaser, Robert A. (February 2011). "Investigating a child sacrifice event from the Inca heartland". Journal of Archaeological Science 38 (2): 323-333. doi:10.1012/j.jas.2010.09.009.

References[edit]

  • Andrushko, Valerie A.; Buzon, Michele R.; Gibaja, Arminda M.; McEwan, Gordon F.; Simonetti, Antonio; Creaser, Robert A. (February 2011). "Investigating a child sacrifice event from the Inca heartland". Journal of Archaeological Science. 38 (2): 323–333. doi:10.1012/j.jas.2010.09.009. 
  • Besom, Thomas (2009). Of Summits and Sacrifice : An Ethnohistoric Study of Inka Religious Practices. Texas: University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292719774. 
  • Ceruti, Maria Constanza (March 2004). "Human Bodies as Objects of Dedication at Inca Mountain Shrines (north-western Argentina)". World Archaeology. 36 (1): 103*122. 
  • Cobo, Bernabe; Hamilton, Roland (2010). Inca Religion and Customs. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292789791. 
  • D'Altroy, Terence N. (2003). The Incas (Reprinted ed.). Oxford: Blackwell Pub. ISBN 1-4051-1676-5. 
  • Grady, Denise (2007-09-11). "In Argentina, a Museum Unveils a Long-Frozen Maiden". The New York Times. 
  • Molina, Cristóbal de; Bauer, Brian S.; Smith-Oka, Vania (2011). Account of the Fables and Rites of the Incas (Reprinted ed.). University of Texas Press. ISBN 9780292723832. 
  • Reinhard, Johan; Ceruti, Constanza (June 2005). "Sacred Mountains, Ceremonial Sites, and Human Sacrifice Among the Incas". Archaeoastronomy. 19: 1–43.