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Incas fattened up their children before sacrifice on the volcano

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  • Krissa Klein
    Incas fattened up their children before sacrifice on the volcano[image: Aerial view of lava]
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2007
      Incas fattened up their children before sacrifice on the volcano[image:
      Aerial view of lava]
      <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/xxx>Image :1 of
      2 <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/xxx>
      Mark Henderson, Science Editor

      Grim evidence of how the Incas "fattened up" children before sacrificing
      them to their gods has emerged from a new analysis of hair from two
      500-year-old mummies preserved near the summit of a volcano.

      The remains of the 15-year-old girl known as the "Llullaillaco Maiden" and
      the seven-year-old "Llullaillaco Boy" revealed that their diets changed
      markedly in the 12 months up to their deaths, shedding new light on the
      rituals of the ancient Andean civilisation.

      The research, by a British-led team, suggests that the children were fed a
      ceremonial diet before being marched to a shrine 82ft (25 metres) from the
      top of the 22,110ft (6,739 metres) volcano Llullaillaco, where they were
      suffocated or left to die from exposure.

      Before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the boy and girl had followed a
      typical peasant diet. This raises the possibility that they were chosen from
      among the Incas' conquered subjects and killed not only to pacify the
      mountain gods, but also to instil terror and respect for an imperial power.
      "It looks to us as though the children were led up to the summit shrine in
      the culmination of a year-long rite, drugged and then left to succumb to
      exposure," said Timothy Taylor of the University of Bradford, one of the
      lead researchers.

      "Although some may wish to view these grim deaths within the context of
      indigenous belief systems, we should not forget that the Inca were
      imperialists too and the treatment of such peasant children may have served
      to instil fear and facilitate social control over remote mountain areas."

      The two mummified bodies, along with a third belonging to a six-year-old
      girl, were discovered in 1999 on Llullaillaco, in northwestern Argentina,
      near the Chilean border.

      All are exquisitely preserved, though the younger girl's body had been
      damaged by a lightning strike, giving her the nickname "Lightning Girl". The
      Maiden of Llullaillaco or "La Doncella", which is considered among the best
      preserved of all Andean mummies, has gone on public display recently for the
      first time, at the High Mountain Archaeological Museum in the nearby town of

      In the new research, Dr Taylor, his colleague Andrew Wilson and others have
      now examined hair taken from the Maiden and the Boy for isotopes of carbon,
      nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. Isotopes are atomic variants of particular
      elements, and their relative abundance in hair, can reveal detailed
      information about an individual's diet and where he or she once lived.

      The study, which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National
      Academy of Sciences, shows that the children spent much of their lives
      eating a diet composed primarily of vegetables, such as potatoes, which
      indicates a peasant background.

      In the 12 months before their deaths, however, both children's hair shows
      that they started to receive maize, which was considered a food of the
      elite, and animal protein, almost certainly from dried llama meat known as

      "By examining hair samples from these unfortunate children, a chilling story
      has started to emerge of how the children were 'fattened up' for sacrifice,"
      Dr Wilson said.

      "Given the surprising change in their diets and the symbolic cutting of
      their hair, it appears that various events were staged in which the status
      of the children was raised. In effect, their countdown to sacrifice had
      begun some considerable time prior to death."

      The hair isotopes show a further change in the children's lifestyle about
      three to four months before they died, which suggests that is when they
      began their pilgrimage to the volcano, probably from the Inca capital,

      It is thought that the children were given maize beer or chicha and coca
      leaves, both to alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness and to drug them
      into compliance with their fates. Byproducts of coca metabolism have been
      found in the hair of the children, with particularly high concentrations in
      the Maiden's. As the oldest, she may have had more idea about what was about
      to happen to her.

      It is known that the Incas who conquered the indigenous tribes of the Andes
      chose the sons and daughters of local rulers and particularly attractive
      children for sacrifice. Some girls, known as acllas, were chosen at the age
      of around 4 and raised by priestesses. Some would be offered as wives to
      local nobles, others would become priestesses and others would later be

      The two girls appear to have been been left to die from exposure � at such a
      high altitude, it would not have taken long for children to die. Previous
      research, however, has shown that the Llullaillaco Boy was suffocated by
      having a textile wrap drawn so tightly around him that his ribs were crushed
      and his pelvis dislocated.


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