SALTA, Argentina — The maiden, the boy, the girl of lightning: they were three Inca children, entombed on a bleak and frigid mountaintop 500 years ago as a religious sacrifice…
Unearthed in 1999 from the 22,000-foot summit of Mount Llullaillaco, a volcano 300 miles west of here near the Chilean border, their frozen bodies were among the best preserved mummies ever found, with internal organs intact, blood still present in the heart and lungs, and skin and facial features mostly unscathed. No special effort had been made to preserve them. The cold and the dry, thin air did all the work. They froze to death as they slept, and 500 years later still looked like sleeping children, not mummies.
Scientists examine a 15-year-old girl who lived in the Inca Empire, then was sacrificed and remained frozen for 500 years
A scientist carefully extracts a hair from the sacrificial victim known as the “Llullaillaco Maiden,” in a labroom that is kept at a constant freezing temperature
The Llullaillaco Maiden’s new acrylic burial chamber is maintained at 0 degrees Farenheit
children on top of Mt. Llullaillco, in northern Argentina, at 22,000 feet
Frozen mummy of La Doncella on a mountain in Argentina in 1999.
Argentina’s Llullaillaco volcano, where the frozen bodies of three mummified Inca children were found in 1999, towers to some 22,100 feet (6,700 meters).
Some of the Inca burial objects found alongside the sacrificed Llullaillaco children
The excavation of the mummies at the mountain’s peak was the world’s highest archaeological dig, according to anthropologist Johan Reinhard.