Juanita, “The Ice Maiden”, was a 11-15-year-old Inca girl when she was sacrificed to the Inca Gods in return for water and the withholding of avalanches. Juanita was discovered by anthropologist Johan Reinhard and his Peruvian climbing partner Miguel Zarate in 1995 on Mount Ampato, Peru. It is believed that she was a sacrifice to the Inca Gods over 500 years ago, fully clothed in the finest cloths from Cuzco, the Inca capital city. Her clothing and excellent health suggests that she came from a rich Cuzco family.
Juanita’s body was mummified naturally. A nearby volcano eruption melted 500 years of ice and snow, causing Juanita’s frozen body to be encased and her skin, hair, clothing, internal organs and even the contents of her stomach to be preserved. Because Juanita was found frozen, her clothes and remains were not dehydrated like those of other mummies.
Juanita’s body had X-ray examinations and a virtual autopsy done in the laboratory of John Hopkins Hospital. These studies concluded that Juanita weighed 80 pounds and was 1.4 meters at the time of death, had not suffered any illness, had strong teeth and bones, and that her diet was well balanced and healthy. These studies also showed that Juanita fasted one day before the sacrifice and that she had a 5cm long opening in her skull. In addition, scientists at Maryland’s Institute for Genomic Research were able to recover the heart tissues of Juanita as well as identify her DNA. The studies revealed that Juanita’s closest relative was the Ngoge tribe of Panama. In addition, Juanita’s mitochondrial DNA D loop sequence disclosed her close relation to Taiwanese and Korean races.
Juanita died from blunt trauma to the head, as proven by her cracked right eye socket and the two-inch fracture in her skull. The blow caused a large hemorrhage that filled her skull with blood and pushed her brain to one side. She was likely drugged on her way up the mountain, and research shows that she died from blunt force trauma to the head resulting in the brain hemorrhage.
The discovery of Juanita’s body shocked the science world. In 1995, Juanita was chosen by Time magazine as one of the world’s top ten discoveries. Juanita’s body was so well preserved by the ice that the food from her last meal was inside her stomach, still digesting. Juanita’s body as well as a collection of bowls, pins and figurines found with her body, have been shown continuously at The Catholic University of Santa María's Museum of Andean Sanctuaries since 1996.
Castro, J. (2013). Final Moments of Incan Child Mummies' Lives Revealed. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/38504-incan-child-mummies-lives-revealed.html
Clark, L. (1998). Ice Mummies of the Inca. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/ice- mummies-inca.html
Goldsmith, M. (2012). Meeting a 500-Year-Old Peruvian Mummy. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margie-goldsmith/visiting-a-500yearold-per_b_1146363.html