Inca mummy – boy’s body frozen for 500 years
The story goes that the Incas came as far south as Santiago and had a holy place high up on the mountain El Plomo. One day an arriero working on the mountain had a dream about a boy who was buried on the mountain. The dream told him the exact location and so he went the next day and dug into the snow. He went with his nephew and they found a mummified child in the place described.
The arrieros took the child down to a cave at about 4000 metres and hid it there for a month and 9 days while they negotiated the sale with the Museum of Natural History. When first excavated the body weighed around 35 kilos, according to the arriero, but after the time in the cave it weighed only 15 kg. While they were carrying the body down the child began to leak oil and blood from his ears. This may show that he was still alive after 500 years, though frozen.
The head of Anthropology at the museum said that the child had been drugged with coca before being buried and had suffered no pain.
Discovered in 1954, it was the first frozen mummy discovery of high-altitude human sacrifice by the Incas.The Incas had discovered that 5000 metres above sea level is the perfect altitude as at this height a body freezes rather than decomposes and also does not suffer the deterioration that a higher altitude causes. There is a theory, therefore, that the child, of approximately 8 years of age, was not dead but was in a state of hibernation. Some say the child was ‘assassinated’ because it was removed from its bed of ice without the proper precautions. In fact perhaps it should not be called a mummy at all, but a frozen boy. He had not been embalmed; he had all his organs intact in his body and the outward appearance was of a normal child. He had feet, face and mouth, eyes with lashes, forehead, nose and head with hair arranged in complicated plaits. He was lying on his legs with his hands supported on his knees, in an attitude of prayer.
The mummy is curated by the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile and it has a replica of the mummy on public display.
We do not actually take horseback rides up this mountain but you can see it from some of the places where we ride.