Found as if she died just yesterday, an Inca girl’s 500 year old corpse reveals something about diet, culture and ancient diseases.
From Natural World News
The three Inca mummies included a 13-year-old known as the Llullaillaco Maiden,” a boy “Llullaillaco Boy,” and girl “Lightning Girl” whose remains were struck by lightning and charred. The youngest appeared to be either 4 or 5 years old. The mummified remains were entombed in a small chamber 1.5 meters underground near the summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina.
Their well preserved remains were discovered in 1999 and have been on display in museums since then. The children were believed to have been participants in capacocha, a sacrificial rite that occurred in celebration of key events in the life of the Inca emperor.
These children obviously did not go willingly. Especially true of “The Maiden.”
“She was then probably involved in a series of rituals, involving consumption of coca and alcohol, in the build-up to her sacrifice, which kept consumption at a steady level.
“Both substances were controlled, were considered elite products and held ritual significance for the Inca.
“At the altitude the children were found, death by exposure is inevitable. There was no evidence of physical violence to the children, but the coca and alcohol are likely to have hastened their deaths.
“The fact that in her final weeks the maiden shows consistently higher levels of coca and alcohol use compared to the younger children, suggests there was a greater need to sedate her in the final weeks of life.”
Her death, however cruel at the time, serves a purpose in the increase of our knowledge today.
From Shock Mansion
‘The Maiden’ was suffering from a bacterial infection when she died – and being able to ‘diagnose’ the disease could lead to new insights into diseases of the past. The discovery could help defend against new illnesses – or the re-emergence of diseases of the past. The mummy was suffering from an illness similar to tuberculosis when she was sacrificed on the Argentinian volcano Llullaillaco, 22,100 feet above sea level. The find – using a new technique of swabbing the lips and comparing the swabs with those of current patients – is the first time a disease has been ‘diagnosed’ in such an ancient body.
This discovery would be invaluable by itself, that we can potentially learn something about the development of a disease like tuberculosis through history is just amazing. While treatable today, TB is highly infectious and can in some forms be difficult to treat which makes it still dangerous.
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