Sunday, October 17, 2010

Arequipa (Part 2)..

Travel Diaries : Oct 1

We almost forgot Juanita. I had this feeling that we had missed something precious as we walked back to our hotel room and then it came to me in a flash and we hurried back to 'Museo Santuarios Andinos'...A detour we never regretted. :)

We were not allowed cameras inside the museum. The cost of an entrance ticket was 15 soles . This did not include guide charges. The tour started with a video presentation.

'Juantia'the ice princess, a beautiful young girl ,  sacrificed to appease the Gods, was discovered on the top of Ampato volcano, her body preserved for nearly 500 years. She was discovered by the anthropologist Dr Johan Rienhard. The video explained how her body was first found and spoke about how the eruption from a neighbouring volcano melted ice which made the excavation of Juanita possible.

The video spoke about how human sacrifice was viewed in those times. The Victim was apparently chosen at birth and was not allowed access to the outside world. So they grew up with others like themselves, chosen for a special cause. When the time came , the best amongst them was chosen. The video explained that best probably meant, Good at several things and endowed with talents as opposed to beautiful. Only the unblemished were chosen for this important occasion and so the victim was mostly a young virgin girl. Most times the victim viewed it as a rare honor bestowed upon them. It was believed that the victim would live on in the other world and thus it was some kind of chance to be immortal.

Part reconstruction, the video took the viewer on Juanita's journey from Cusco , where she arrived accompanied by a court of very important people. There she was greatedby the Inca , and there was some sort of ceremony where he transfers his divinity. As they climbed the mountain and reached the top, she was given 'Chi Cha' a local brew made from corn.

Initially the cause of her death was unknown. But research yielded that she was killed by a precise blow to her right eye brow.  It is also known that she was subjected to a fast to make the effects of the Chi Cha, (which was to serve as a sedative) faster. Analysis of her stomach has shown that she had Cocoa leaves close to 8 hours before she died. DNA analysis of her heart revealed that her ancestors were from Asia.

We were given a tour of the museum where other artifacts uncovered with the mummy were kept. Explanations on the Inca concepts of duality followed. Also there were more pictures and information about the Mummy itself. Like the clothes she wore  were red and white causing speculations that she was probably royalty.  She was discovered in the foetal position(to signify that she would be reborn if I remember right). There were couple other bodies discovered, a boy and a girl on the same mountain. The mummy of the boy had been hit by lightning couple of times as there were metal objects that had been buried with him.

Finally we got to see the Mummy itself, carefully preserved at -20 C , the same temperature at the top of the mountain where she was found. As I stood there seeing the Mummy I could not imagine what this young girl must have been through.. It was disturbing in some ways that someone so young was sacrificed for the greater good



  1. o my god.
    how come i ve never heard of this bfore?
    that picture is so deeply disturbing. more so the thought behind it.

  2. Ninu - Yes it is..
    You should have seen he video presentation, the story though only a reconstruction seemed so real. How do people sacrifice themselves? Hmm!



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