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Inca Children Got High Before Death

Evidence from mummified remains of three children discovered atop an Argentinian volcano suggests they were drunk and stoned for a year leading up to their ritual sacrifice.

By | July 29, 2013

The Ice Maiden, a mummified 13-year-old girl discovered in a shrine atop an Argentinian volcanoJOHAN REINHARDThree Inca children found mummified in a shrine near the peak of a 6,700-meter Argentinian volcano consumed vast quantities of corn alcohol and coca, the plant from which cocaine is derived, for a year before they were sacrificed as part of their society’s religious practices. The children, a 13-year-old girl known as the “Ice Maiden” and a boy and a girl between the ages of 4 and 5, were likely sedated to keep them compliant in the death ritual, according to the authors of an analysis of the mummies published Monday (July 29) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The 500-year-old mummies are among the most well-preserved samples ever discovered, mostly due to the frigid conditions of the high altitude tomb in which they were found in 1999. (See "Pneu-mummy-a" from the November 2012 issue of The Scientist for a story of previous research done on the remains.) Detailed biochemical analysis of the mummies’ hair provided a record of what substances were circulating in the blood as new hair cells formed. Led by forensic archaeologist Andrew Wilson of the University of Bradford in the U.K., researchers discovered that the children ingested alcohol and cocaine for about a year before their death, and that consumption spiked dramatically in the weeks before they were killed.

Wilson and colleagues suspect the children were marched from the Inca capital of Cuzco to the volcano, Llullaillaco, stopping along the way to consume massive amounts of alcohol and coca in village ceremonies. The Ice Maiden, whose body was discovered cross-legged and slumped slightly forward as if she was sleeping at the time of her death, was also found with a large wad of chewed coca leaves in her mouth.

A previous analysis by Wilson’s group revealed a marked improvement in the nutritional content of the children’s diet in the year before their death, indicating they were well cared for in preparation for the sacrifice ceremony. Also, in the current study, scans of the Ice Maiden’s body suggested she died on a full stomach and had not recently defecated. “To my mind, that suggests she was not in a state of distress at the point at which she died,” Wilson told LiveScience.

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Avatar of: Phootthaimaidai

Phootthaimaidai

Posts: 2

July 31, 2013

Probably not for public consumption, and more than likely a emotionally forensic and taboo subject as well -- I have to wonder if they tested for sexual violation or abuse. Primative cultures institutionalize, pedistalize, and/or subjugate the "virgin," so I've often wondered from which side (if not many) it was used per se, per culture.

The "sacrificing virgins" as it were, has ranged from a purely selfish, if codified, abuse of power -- to an (archaic and extreme) exceptional test of devotion. The results of which, could be telling.

Avatar of: scisci

scisci

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

Central american cultures were no more primative than the Greeks or Romans (who also had forms of human sacrifice) and were actually very advanced in a number of ways, so your blataant cultural bias is pretty disgusting. Also, your curiosity about the mechanics of pedophilia across cultures is downright creepy. PLEASE check yourself in and get help before it's too late.

Avatar of: kate_rae

kate_rae

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

Took the words right out of my mouth scisci ..... unhealthy curiosity to say the least .. Spare me the " not for public consumption" crap ... you are sick. Seriously get help Phoot, before you  hurt someone. 

Avatar of: jimbob jones

jimbob jones

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

Would 13 have been pedephilia in that culture? Some cultures marry at similar ages. Leave your miopic cultural imperialism at the door, scisci.

Avatar of: wynegara

wynegara

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

This may sound silly.... but how were the children killed/sacraficed? Since the 13 year old girl was found as if she was sleeping at the time of her death and she had a full belly.... how were they killed? 

Avatar of: solovoice

solovoice

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

"..as if she was sleeping at the time of her death." As if she "were."

Avatar of: iteach8

iteach8

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

I too ponder how they died. She had a full stomach I assume, with leaves in her mouth. I have always associated sacrifices as violent. I see this becoming a great lesson!

Avatar of: delapena1978

delapena1978

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

Based on this article I dare ask, might the sacrifice have been that of an overdose? Could a "power drug" have been the system for sacrifice to the gods in this case? Very Interesting...

Avatar of: Seamoss

Seamoss

Posts: 2

July 31, 2013

For more information on the way she died and othe scientific information, see the following link: http://icemaidencasestudy.wikispaces.com/How+did+she+die%3F

Avatar of: fhmuniz

fhmuniz

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

somethings are just amazing i wonder be the person who found it or at least hear the history.

Avatar of: Okola

Okola

Posts: 1

July 31, 2013

Something is wrong in this article. Coca is not cocaine.

Avatar of: Fox-Ka

Fox-Ka

Posts: 1

August 1, 2013

Coca leaves are chewed by everyone all the time in that region of the world for their nutritional properties, and especially while on the road, during cold months, while undertaking physical effort, etc. so nothing special and unusual about this and rather to be expected during the travel to the mnts. And the leaves are not drugs, they do not have the same effects as distilled cocaine. this is some bull. Also, chicha or corn alcohol is used and drank by everyone in that culture, so again, nothing so unusual. The meaning and practice of human sacrifice in one form or another is not entirely lost today, I think, as we have for example all the young men and women, for one, who are signing up for the army of their own free will, believing they do this for their country (!). All cultures at all times have practiced some form of human sacrifice so let's not be so "evolved" about it. These youngsters usually came from aristocratic families and were convinced their sacrifice was necessary for the good of their nation and tribe, and were higly esteemed for giving their lives for that purpose. Probably also felt very special while doing it. What gets my goat is all the people today believing themselves superior to those "other" societies without understanding deeper meaning and value of those as well as other acts that were practiced out of context, applying their own limited measure to everything. Also, while we wear the shoes and clothes and watches and use cell phones made by child slaves of 3d world and take tourist trips to some of the third world countries to abuse their children sexually as well as allow the American children to go without basic health insurance etc., we take a high seat of judging those peoples who at lease did their sacrifices within a certain belief and societal system, with full respect and openly, with no shame attached to those acts.

Avatar of: Toryu88

Toryu88

Posts: 1

August 1, 2013

I beg to differ on a couple of previous posts.  First, coca is chewed in S. America, but not for its nutritional value, but for the same reasons se drink coffee, it gives you a slight buzz, a lift when doing physical labor and it suppresses appetite and hunger.  I led a field crew in Bolivia and all the members chewed it and carried a lime jar on their belts.  Without the lime, your saliva cannot extract the alkaloids that are the stimulant.  It is a stick the lick and dip in the lime and wipe it over their tongues.

Second, an inquisitive mind does want to know everything about something.  You morons who think Phootthaimaidai is sick, demonstrate that you do not have what it takes to be a scientist nor do you possess a creative mind.  Cultural mores stiffle creativitiy.  The astronauts were given a test to get a ping pong ball out of a tube sealed to the floor. They had nothing but a stick, and could not pierce the ball.  Some used boogers as an adhesive on the end of the stick, others used feces, and still others urinated in the tube to float the ball out.  How many of you closed minded people would have resorted to any of those methods?

I dispute that the Greeks were no more advanced...Incas did not have the naval capabilities of the greeks, nor was their archetectural science as advanced, nor were their government institutions as advanced as the greeks.  Their institutionalized sacrifices of prisoners of war also shows a much lower level of moral development. Yes, the greeks did institutionalize pederasty, which was the foundation for the mentor-student relationship among men.  Homosexuality was pretty common in greek society and was at the core of some of their most successful military units, The Thebian, Sacred Band for one, made up of gay lovers.  If you want to pretend to practice science, leave your moral judgements at the door, you only embarass yourself.  You might better lurk around the creationist websites.

Avatar of: Seamoss

Seamoss

Posts: 2

August 1, 2013

Toryu88, while your observations on Greeks might be right, I don't see what your post on homosexuality has anything to do with the subject of this article. Calling people morons for sure, is not very professional.

If you go on the link that I provided in my previous post, you will see that great care were taken to examine the remains and minimal invasive procedures were conducted. As a scientist, I agree that inquisitive mind and curiosity are good qualities but respect is also a good one, it is why there is something called ethics. In this case, it is possible that "proof of virginity" was tested but I highly doubt that it was the scientists' main concern. I have to admit, the way Phootthaimaidai brought the topic, it did not sound very scientific. Morbid curiosity is disturbing at times and when it comes to children, you have to understand that people will get defensive. It is a normal human reaction, scientist or not.

As for the Central American cultures, many good observations were posted. While I am not very familiar with the cultures, I do know that Incas were very advanced for their time. Comparing them to the Greeks is like comparing apples and oranges. They were not living in the same type of environment at all. Each culture has its strengths and weaknesses. As some noted, human sacrifices are not new and are/were being done in many cultures for many reasons. Unless we were there with them 500 years ago, we can only speculate the real reasons why this was done on healthy Inca children. I believe we can offer an explaination without belittling someone else opinion. All observations made on the coca leaves are valid (stimulant, appetite supressor, etc.). It has nutritional values (calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins B1, B2, C, and E, and protein and fiber). It is also known for suppressing pain and fatigue, altitude sickness and as anesthetic. All good reasons when you are taking a long journey in the mountains and are about to get executed by a blow on the side of your head. You really want to be as numb as possible! Many people risked their lives to lead those children in the mountains. The children were well fed, well clothed and really healthy so despite the horror associated with killing a child, one can only assume that those children were well cared for prior to their execution.

Avatar of: Phootthaimaidai

Phootthaimaidai

Posts: 2

August 1, 2013

(having tried to reply to scisci, which doesn't seem to work, I'm left with dumping this at the bottom of the posts)

I guess I should have prefaced my post with a... oh I did. But, now that I read back I can see how I might have come across a bit a clinical to some; apologies to those that read past the warning - and a reactive narrowmindedness. 

But to scisci... Any culture that would kill a child for religious reasons, or that "sacrifices virgins," is by definition a "primitive" culture sociologically and developmentally, regardless of what other incredible advances they'd made, regardless of what others were doing or had done.  For example, 21st century GOP social policies and Left-wing corporate stooging in food safety issues -- are both essentially modern cavemanism. 

And "blataant sic cultural bias...?"  "Primitive cultures" should read as plural. 

Yes, an awkward subject, and maybe an overly objectified treatment by me, but this is "the-scientist.com" and not a Fox News blog or some other gossip column...

 

 

 

 

 

Avatar of: Tona

Tona

Posts: 1

August 8, 2013

I find very interesting the opinion of every body. One thing is wrong the Incas were in Peru, South America. Not Central America.

Avatar of: rosauraliu

rosauraliu

Posts: 1

August 11, 2013

how is  the INCA girl found in a Argentinian volcano ????? ... the distance from Cuzco to Argentina is so far to travel  knowing at these time rudimentary transport was the only choice... she is not Inca ... she is a different culture .. Argentina has diferent kind of indigenas at the time... in the high mountains certainly ... I'm Peruvian and I know my Inca people ..I disagree 

Avatar of: Lourdie

Lourdie

Posts: 1

August 18, 2013

You have think too, in these cultures it was often thought of to many as an honor to be picked as a sacrifice to the gods and they were treated as nobles. The childrens families prepared them for the day that they would get picked as it was a great thing for your child to be picked, but this was not the case in ALL cultures that did this. Some were stolen and sacrificed against their will. Which were barbaric. we say any culture that did this was barbaric, but maybe to them it was an honor, especially if they appear to be well cared for.

Avatar of: SteveS

SteveS

Posts: 1

August 19, 2013

To  Tona and rosauraliu:
To tona~ Argentina is not in Central America.
To rosauraliu- the Incan empire at its' greatest expanse went from Ecuador, through Peru, and into northern Chile and Argentina. The Volcano, Llullaillaco, is in northen Argentina on the Chile Argentinian border.
To Phootthaimaidai and all those both for and against his comments: He asked a basic forensic archeological anthropological question~ "what was involved in the entire ritual sacrifice of this child?" I see no problem with the question. If she had been found buried in someones basement, don't you think the forensics team would check for sexual molestation? It's a basic part of forensics. In this case, scientists are trying to 'rebuild' the actual events around this ceremony. So all questions must be asked to fully understand the peoples, beliefs, and ceremonies of that time.
To answer Toryu88: 

"If you want to pretend to practice science, leave your moral judgements at the door, you only embarass yourself.  You might better lurk around the creationist websites."  
To this I would quote Mahatma Ghadi~

“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles."

A good scientist does not leave their morality at the door. He/she brings it with them, but uses good scientific judgement to render an accurate decision.

The Nazi scientists left morality at the door, is this what you are suggesting?

As far as Creationism~ a good scientist accepts all possibilites! Your statement makes it sound as if you are the one with the closed mind.

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