1. The artificial mummies of the Inca
rulers are special because they no longer exist. When the Inca were conquered by
Pizarro, he ordered his soldiers to burn the mummies. Devout Catholics, he was disturbed
by the Inca worship of their dead ancestors. With their destruction went valuable
information not only about the mummification process but the lifestyle and civilization of
the Inca rulers.
2. The natural mummies of the mountain
top sacrifices are special because (1) so many have been found in recent years and (2)
some of the mummies are in excellent condition and (3) the burial items and even the
platform itself can provide archaeologists and other researchers with important
information about the Inca life and religious beliefs.
For example, three new
Inca ice mummies were found in
perfect shape in early spring 1999 during blizzard conditions atop Mount Llullaillaco, a
22,000-foot volcano in the Argentine Andes. The boy and two girls, between 8 and 15 years
old, were discovered by archaeologist Johan Reinhard (and his National Geographic team),
who also found Juanita in 1995. Dr. Reinhard has been a busy man in the Andes of Chile,
Peru, and Argentina--where in the past few years he has found 18 mountain top mummies.
What's so exciting
about these three new mummies is that weather conditions caused them to be frozen rather
than freeze-dried. This means that they are much better preserved--so well preserved
that a CT-scan revealed that all of their internal organs are intact and in good shape, as
if they had just died last week instead of approximately 500 years ago. In fact, the heart
and lungs still contain blood. Reinhard said that the mummies "appear the best
preserved of any mummy I've seen. The arms looked perfect, even down to the visible
hairs." According to Reinhard, they are better preserved than Juanita. [NOTE: Freeze-dried mummies have no fluids left in their bodies for scientists to study.]
condition will allow researchers to study the mummies as thoroughly as possible (without
harming them) and find out what they had eaten before death and even if they were
genetically related. They do not even intend to unwrap the mummies completely.
Apparently the three
were sacrificed by the Inca, though no cause of death has been determined yet. They may
have even been buried alive--five feet below a burial platform. They were separated by
stone walls, and the bodies were covered with rocks and dirt.
burial, one of the girl mummies was struck by lightning, which damaged her left ear and
shoulder. But the other two child mummies were undamaged. According to the San Jose
Mercury, the second girl mummy has a "cone-shaped" head, which was
caused by the Inca practice of binding children's heads at birth to help turn them into
the shape of a mountain.
The burial platform
itself was also major discovery. It contained over 30 gold, silver, and shell statues
(ranging from 2 to 7 inches tall); half of the statues were dressed in clothes. The site
also included pottery (some containing food), fabrics woven from alpaca, and some clothing
(such as moccasins).
Llullaillaco mummies have
revealed a new surprise: at least one of them has (at least) one living
Researchers, lead by team
leader Johan Reinhard, have conducted DNA tests on the three
mummies. This DNA was matched to DNA taken from 19 people who live in the
town of Cabanaconde in Peru's Colca Valley. These individuals had given
DNA samples a few years earlier to see if they might be related to the
most famous mountaintop mummy, Juanita
the Ice Maiden. None matched--but when researched compared their
DNA to that of the Llullaillaco mummies, they hit the genetic jackpot.
One of the mummified girls and
a man now living near Washington D.C. were a "near perfect"
match. Scientists believe that they shared a common ancestor--perhaps 100
years before the girl was sacrificed.
Now scientists want to know if
Incas transported children long distances to take part in sacrificial
ceremonies--or if their ancestors moved to the Colca Valley from nearby
Peru. Further DNA tests of a wider population sample (taken from Peru and
Argentina) will help eventually answer the question. (MSNBC.com