Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spectacular preservation - mummy of an Inca girl

From some angles she looks alive. This is certainly one of the most amazing accidents of preservation on earth!

500 years ago this 15 year old girl and 2 others were left on a frozen mountain top as part of sacrificial rites. Known as the Llullaillaco Maiden", her remains were found 22,000 feet up a volcano. Internal organs were preserved perfectly, along with some blood in the heart and lungs. The mummification process was entirely natural, caused by the stable cold, dry conditions. The ritual called for only the most perfect children to be chosen to inter in small niches, waiting to join their ancestors and watch over the living.

I have some concerns, as ever, with the display of human remains in museums; more acute given that these are the remains of a child. However, local Inca groups seem content with moving limited numbers of remains from the mountain region. The original article doesn't go into detail about the ethical debates, but I can only hope that due consideration was given.

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