In the Inca culture the practice of Capacocha child sacrifice was performed, which offered young children to the gods. This ritual sacrifice was performed, “in response to catastrophes such as earth quakes, droughts and volcanic eruptions, as well as to mark historic events in the life of the emperor” (Andrushko, 2011). The sacrifice always took place high in the mountains, which is one of the primary reasons that researchers are able to find some of these remains today. The mountains where the Inca people lived were very important to them, and they worshipped the mountains because they believed the mountains controlled the weather, which is still practiced today (Berardelli, 1996). Research shows that in some cases the children involved with the sacrifice as being children of royalty or upper class, which meant this would help secure the “link” between the Inca Emperor and the gods (Hammond, 1991). Children were also viewed as being “purer than adults” and the sacrificed child was thought to have essentially become a deity, as well as, “a direct representative of the people, (who was) living with the gods forever after”(Reinhard, 2002). It was also important to the Inca that young boys and girls from all around the empire were sacrificed, in order to “unify” the empire (Andrushko, 2011). The Capacocha child sacrifice ritual was truly a monumental part of Inca culture, and held huge importance within their religious beliefs. Throughout the semester we will explain individual examples of Capacocha sacrifice.
What are some of the problems and ethical issues researches and scientists are dealing with when dealing with Inca Mummies?
One of the primary issues that scientists and researchers are dealing with today is finding tombs that have not been looted by grave robbers. Because royal mummies are usually mummified with expensive belongings like gold, textiles, and ancient pottery, looters who sell the items on the black market seek their gravesites out. These items usually end up in personal collections, and never will be seen or evaluated by scientists or researchers (National Geographic: “Inca Mummies: Secrets of the Lost World”). Johan Reinhard, an American high-altitude anthropologist who found the mummy “The Maiden of Ampato” explained that he was forced to move her down the mountain once he found her in fear that looters would destroy her tomb (Berardelli, 1996).
Scientists and researchers must understand the areas and cultures where they work because as Jane Pratt, the president of the Mountain Institute, explains, “Rituals that are appropriate for one culture are not necessarily proper for all” (Berardelli, 1996).
Governmental law and control of the land are also aspects that scientists and researchers must deal with when finding mummies. In the National Geographic Special: “Inca Mummies: Secrets of the Lost World,” it explains some of these pressures of destroying mummified gravesites due to the population of the area increasing and expanding. Reinhard’s expedition, which found “The Maiden of Ampato,” needed to first convince the locals, native organizations, as well as the Peruvian government in order to transport the mummy back to the United States, where it then would go through various testing and studies (Berardelli, 1996). This elaborate process of getting permission from various organizations can be tough at times for scientists and researchers to properly study their subjects.
Because of these problems and issues, researchers and scientists face situations that make it hard to conduct adequate research on their subjects. Throughout the semester we will touch on each of these aspects.
The Maiden of Ampato
Image from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/ice-mummies-inca.html
Video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OerL1XonmEs&feature=relmfu
Video from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vUDiXs927-U&feature=relmfu
National Geographic Special “Inca Mummies: Secrets of the Lost World”
Andrushko, V. A., Buzon, M. R., Gibaja, A. M., McEwan, G. F., Simonetti, A., & Creaser, R. A.
(2011). Investigating a child sacrifice event from the Inca heartland. Journal of
Archaeological Science, 38(2), 323- 333.
Berardelli, P. (1996, July 1). Inca mummy yields secrets. National Geographic, 12(1), 36.
Hammon, N. (1996, June 17). Mummified body is key to Inca ritual. Times Newspapers Limited Insight on the News
Inca Mummies: Secrets of the Lost World. (2009). National Geographic. Retrieved February 29,
Mummified Child Sacrifice. (2009). National Geographic. Retrieved February 29, 2012 from
Reinhard, J. (2002, May). At 22,000 feet children of Inca sacrifice found frozen in time. National Geographic