Evidence Suggests Incas Drugged Child Sacrifices
August 6, 2013

Evidence Suggests Incas Drugged Child Sacrifices

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

The Incas were known for a ritual sacrifice called 'capacocha' and a new analysis in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals that the young children who gave their lives in this ritual were most likely drugged and drunk around the time of their death.

In the study, an international archeology team analyzed the 500-year-old remains of three children who were naturally mummified atop the 20,000-foot-high Llullaillacao Volcano in Argentina. One of the mummies was that of a 13-year-old girl. The other two were from a boy and girl around four or five years old, each found in a separate grave.

After performing a detailed analyses of hair taken from the 13-year-old's remains, the scientists found evidence that she ingested increasing amounts of corn beer and coca leaf, the raw form of cocaine, in the weeks and months leading up to the time of death.

"Now we know more precisely what happened in an Inca sacrifice, for example to what extent coca and alcohol were used as part of the Inca ritual in the months and weeks preceding a sacrifice," said study co-author Niels Lynnerup, a professor of forensic medicine at the University of Copenhagen. "It is very satisfactory that we with our scientific methods can help uncover the unique circumstances regarding a number of very central aspects of ancient Inca culture."

While all three children had evidence of coca use, the young maiden's consumption of the stimulant increased initially one year before her death and then again six months later. The teenager was even found to have bits of coca leaf in her mouth at the time of death.

"We made CT analyses and have produced three-dimensional visualizations of the mummified girl's organs and the contents of her mouth cavity," Lynnerup said. "From that we could establish her age relatively precisely just as the coca leaf stuck between her teeth and in her cheek also could be identified."

"Finally, because of the amazing preservation we could also determine the contents of the intestines, and thereby establish a reasonable time of her final meal," he added.

The scientists also used a hair analysis test to determine alcohol and coca consumption in the weeks and months leading up to death.

"We can see that the ritual sacrifice has been prepared for a long time and that sustained consumption of drugs apparently was a part of the preparations prior to the sacrifice itself," Lynnerup said.

The scientists said that the sacrificial maiden was most likely chosen one year before the sacrifice. As she traveled to the volcano, she most likely stopped along the way to perform rituals that included drinking alcohol and ingesting coca leaf. The research team said there was no evidence that the girl suffered any violence and she probably lost consciousness just before losing her life.

"She was probably heavily sedated by the point at which she succumbs to death," Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom told NBC News.

The scientists said the three children probably grew up as peasants, but lived a high status life after being selected for the ritual.