In 1995, in the snowcapped mountain of Ampato in Arequipa, Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zárate discovered, buried in the ice, the corpse of 12 year old inca girl that would have been sacrificed in the times of the Inca Pachacutec reign, around 1450 A.D.
Surrounding her there were many “illas” or gold idols as well as others made from spondylus’ shells. The archeologists also found nineteen types of plants -with corn and legumes standing out- and dried llama meat (charqui), which made them think that the girl, they named Juanita, was a young “Aclla”, a maid that belonged to the Inca that would have been offered in sacrifice to the god Wiracocha to appease the volcano activity in the area.
Contrary to what is generally believed, the girl, known as the Lady of Ampato, would not have passed by an artificial mummification process in which the internal organs are extracted to embalm the body in order to preserve it. But “Juanita” maintains intact all of hers due to the glacial frozen (natural mummification) of the Ampato’s snow mountain, where the offering was left. After the discovery of “Juanita”, the explorers found two more bodies: Urpicha and Sarita.
Investigations determined that by the time of her death, Juanita had perfect teeth, strong bones, that she had not suffer from any kind of disease and that she died from a blow in her head. Close to the day of the offering, she was under strict fast and about 6 to 8 hours before the sacrifice was performed, she ate a meal of vegetables. Likewise, she was prepared with plants and coca leafs to numb her.
It is known that those who were chosen by the Inca for sacrifices were prepared from an early age. This is why Juanita must have been the object of important rituals that started in her homeland and continued through her pilgrimage towards Ampato. Today, her mummified body is in the Museo Santuario de Altura del Sur Andino of the University Católica de Santa María in Arequipa.