Mummy Juanita

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Mummy Juanita
Juanita dama de las nieves.jpg
Mummy Juanita's body before unwrapping of her bundle.
LocationMount Ampato, Peru

Momia Juanita (Spanish for "Mummy Juanita"), also known as the Lady of Ampato, is the well-preserved frozen body of an Inca girl[1] who was killed as an offering to the Inca gods sometime between 1450 and 1480 when she was approximately 12–15 years old. She was discovered on Mount Ampato (part of the Andes cordillera) in southern Peru in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and his Peruvian climbing partner, Miguel Zárate. "Juanita" has been on display in the Catholic University of Santa María's Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (Museo Santuarios Andinos) in Arequipa, Peru, almost continuously since 1996, and was displayed on a tour of Japan in 1999.

In 1995, Time magazine chose her as one of the world's top ten discoveries.[citation needed] Between May and June 1996, she was exhibited in the headquarters of the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C., in a specially acclimatized conservation display unit. In its June 1996 issue, National Geographic included an article dedicated to the discovery of Juanita.[2]


In September 1995, during an ascent of Mt. Ampato (20,700 ft, 6309 m), Johan Reinhard and Zárate found in the crater a bundle that had fallen from an Inca site on the summit. To their astonishment, the bundle turned out to contain the frozen body of a young girl. They also found many items that had been left as offerings to the Inca gods. The items were strewn about the mountain slope, down which the body had fallen. These included statues and food items. The body and the items were transported to Arequipa, where the body was initially kept in a special refrigerator at the Catholic University.[3]

Two more ice mummies, a young girl and a boy, were discovered in an archaeological expedition led by Dr. Reinhard and Prof. Jose Antonio Chavez in October 1995, and they recovered another female mummy on Ampato in December 1997. Owing to melting caused by volcanic ash from the nearby erupting volcano of Sabancaya, most of the Inca burial site had collapsed down into a gully that led into the crater. Reinhard published a detailed account of the discovery in his 2006 book entitled, The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes.

Scientific analyses[edit]


As Reinhard and Zárate struggled on Ampato's summit to lift the heavy bundle containing Juanita's body, they realized that her body mass had probably been increased by freezing of the flesh. When initially weighed in Arequipa, the bundle containing "Juanita" weighed over 90 pounds (40.82 kilos). Their realization turned out to be correct; Juanita is almost entirely frozen, making her a substantial scientific find. Like only a few other high-altitude Inca mummies, Juanita was found frozen and thus her remains and garments were not desiccated like those of mummies found in other parts of the world. She was naturally mummified, instead of being artificially mummified, as is the case with Egyptian mummies. Her skin, organs, tissues, blood, hair, stomach contents, and garments are extremely well-preserved, offering scientists a rare glimpse into Inca culture during the reign of the Sapa Inca Pachacuti (reigned 1438–1471/1472).

Analysis of her stomach contents revealed that she ate a meal of vegetables, six to eight hours before her death.[4]

Clothing and adornments[edit]

Juanita was wrapped in a brightly coloured burial tapestry (or "aksu"). Her head was adorned with a cap made from the feathers of a red macaw, and she wore a lively woollen alpaca shawl fastened with a silver clasp. She was fully clothed in garments resembling the finest textiles from the Inca capital city of Cusco. This, in addition to evidence of excellent health, suggests that she may have come from a noble Cuzco family. These accoutrements were almost perfectly preserved, providing valuable insight into sacred Inca textiles and on how the Inca nobility dressed.

Tools and equipment[edit]

Found with her in the burial tapestry was a collection of grave goods: bowls, pins, and figurines made of gold, silver, and shell.

Genetic analysis[edit]

According to the Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), the closest kin they could find in the database in 1996 were the Ngobe people of Panama, but the later research has shown her to share genetic patterns found in people from the Andes. Scientists at TIGR examined two mitochondrial DNA D loop sequences and found that Hypervariable region 1 (HV1) was consistent with mitochondrial haplogroup A2, one of the four Native American gene groups. Hypervariable region 2 (HV2) included a unique sequence not found in any of the current mitochondrial DNA databases.[5] Her haplotype is 16111T, 16223T, 16290T, 16319A.[6] In accordance with the genetic world map and genetic patterns, her HV2 DNA sequence was also related with the ancient races originally from Taiwan and Korea, which supports the theory that Paleo-Indians had Pacific links.[7][8][9]

Cause of death[edit]

Radiologist Elliot K. Fishman concluded that she was killed by blunt trauma to the head. He observed that her cracked right eye socket and the two-inch fracture in her skull are injuries "typical of someone who has been hit by a baseball bat." The blow caused a massive hemorrhage, filling her skull with blood and pushing her brain to one side.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Preserved mummy of 500-year-old Inca 'Ice Maiden' wows visitors". Mail Online. Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  2. ^ Reinhard, Johan: Peru’s Ice Maidens. National Geographic 189(6) (June): 62–81, 1996.
  3. ^ "Mummy Juanita: The Sacrifice of the Inca Ice Maiden". Ancient Origins. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  4. ^ "Ice Maiden Virtual Autopsy". Andes Expedition – Searching For Inca Secrets. National Geographic. 1997. Archived from the original on 2011-06-23. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
  5. ^ "DNA: The Key to the Mystery". Andes Expedition – Searching For Inca Secrets. National Geographic. 1997. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
  6. ^ "Ancient DNA". International Society of Genetic Genealogy. 2005-05-14. Archived from the original on 2015-04-03. Retrieved 2015-04-05.
  7. ^ Tests on 'Ice Maiden' reveal Pacific links, Society of Antiquaries of London, 2007. (169).
  8. ^ The Ice Maiden, Genes and Disease
  9. ^ Saydí María Negrón Romero, Presenting Peru & Machupicchu, p.114
  10. ^ "Fatal Head Injury: Cracked Eye Socket and Skull Fracture". Andes Expedition – Searching For Inca Secrets. National Geographic. 1997. Archived from the original on 2012-10-14. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
  11. ^ Gómez-Carballa, A.; Catelli, L.; Pardo-Seco, J.; Martinón-Torres, F.; Roewer, L.; Vullo, C.; Salas, A. (2015). "The complete mitogenome of a 500-year-old Inca child mummy". Scientific Reports. 5: 16462. Bibcode:2015NatSR...516462G. doi:10.1038/srep16462. PMC 4642457. PMID 26561991.

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