The Inca Empire (Source:  Wikimedia Commons )

The Inca Empire (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

On October the 3rd, we went to a special museum in the city of Arequipa, Peru. It was called Museo Santuarios Andinos and was all about Incan child sacrifices (capacocha). The Incan Empire was a great empire that stretched 3500km along the Pacific Coast covering much of modern day Peru, Equador, Bolivia, Chile and northwest Argentina. They built towns and cities way up high in the Andes Mountains and believed the mountains were Gods. When natural disasters like earthquakes, floods and droughts happened, the Incas thought the Gods were angry with them so they made sacrifices and gave offerings to please them.

We went on a guided tour, and it started with an interesting video. It taught us all about how the Incan child sacrifices were buried. They were buried in graves way up at the top of big mountains and offerings were put in the grave to give to the gods too. They sacrificed young children that were the prettiest and healthiest of the tribe. The Incas thought that instead of dying, the children would be reincarnated almost like gods themselves, so it was a huge honour. One of the most important child sacrifices that the museum is all about is the girl Juanita, also known as The Ice Maiden. She was found frozen, 6309m up at the top of an old volcano called Mount Ampato, by an explorer called called Dr Johan Reinhard (and that is why she is called Juanita because that's the Spanish girl's name version of Johan). Even though she had been dead for over 500 years the ice had kept her body really well preserved.

Mount Ampato

She had many layers of clothes on when she died. The tribe gave her a special drink that made her sleepy and dizzy, called chicha. They then whacked her on the head with an Incan hammer. The hammer was a long, thick stick with a carved stone on the end that had two parts sticking out of it, one on the left and one on the right, which was tied on with rope. She got a big hole in her skull and she died, but she looked really peaceful because you couldn't really tell she'd been hit. She'd had lots of material over her head and they had to do an x-ray to find the hole. They then buried her with offerings including a silver and golden doll filled with more silver and gold. The silver and golden doll and the high altitude meant they attracted lightning, so in some thunderstorms, the grave got struck by lightning a few times, which made holes in the doll and it also made Juanita fall 100 feet into the crater of the dormant volcano. This made her veil get damaged, which exposed her face, so it wasn't as well preserved as the rest of her.

After the video, the tour began. At first, the guide showed us a picture/painting of what they thought Juanita would look like in her full regalia. It was a very detailed picture. It even had all the patterns on her veil, her dress and every piece of clothing. The guide told us that when Juanita was born, her mother kept her umbilical cord because they believed that if you ate some, it would cure you of any illnesses. She also told us that when climbing mountains, they took little nibbles of coca leaves every few minutes because they believed that it would prevent them from getting altitude sickness. (We ate coca leaves on our trek up to Machu Picchu too!!!)

When Incas were buried, the offerings usually came in pairs, like two plates or two silver and golden dolls. One of the dolls was dressed just like Juanita! It was all very interesting. Some things came from very far away, like sea shells and feathers from Amazon birds. Some pots had lots of cracks from people trying to put them together again. The offerings also had really satisfying patterns. It was one of the most interesting things I've learned about the Incas!

After that we went to see the pins on some clothing. Girls that were sacrificed had pins on their ponchos to keep the ponchos from opening sideways like curtains. The bigger the pin they had, the more wealthy they were. Let's say that normal children that were sacrificed had pins this long: -----. Juanita's pin was this long: ----------. That's how wealthy her family was!

After we saw the pins, we actually got to see Juanita for real! We saw her hands, which looked really dirty, but well preserved. There were little lumps of white fat showing because when she died, the fat escaped her body and she froze really quickly. We also saw her not so well preserved head... Her right eye is way closer than her left eye to her nose, because the lightning fall shifted it. Juanita was in a translucent preservation box, which is basically a small freezer, so she doesn't defrost. Scientists are still doing lots of tests on her.

I'm so glad they don't do child sacrifices today! But, it was a great museum with many facts and lots of interesting things to see, so if you go to Arequipa, you MUST go to this museum! (I would recommend getting a guided tour too, as it's much more fun and interesting than listening to parents!)

The frozen body of Juanita (Source:  Museo Santuarios Andinos )

The frozen body of Juanita (Source: Museo Santuarios Andinos)

N.B You weren't allowed to take any photographs inside the museum, so we had to find some on the web and there are also some here from the museum leaflet.