The perfect face of a sacrificed girl

I’d dropped the car off at a mechanics to get the shocks replaced and pushed my way through the crowded hot morning streets to the main Salta square. I’ve been fascinated with the Inca history for many years and one thing that drew me to Salta was the museum of high mountain archaeology. It was established after the discovery of three preserved sacrificed children on top of the second highest volcano in the world – Llullaillaico, at over 6700m.

They had been offered to the gods – in return for rains and prosperity of crops – several hundred years ago and due to abiotic subzero environment remained perfectly preserved. Even the remains of the last meals they ate were in their stomachs. Ethnically, their DNA showed links to Colombian families, showing the extent of the Inca route southwards.

Only one of the three is on display in the museum at once to preserve them. Lightning girl was to view – a six year old girl, swathed in her offering cloth, her skin and face preserved, save for some cheek schorching when her grave was struck by lightning.

It was an extraordinary feeling staring through the glass into the face of a poor little girl, thinking of how she was brought to the top of a very high remote mountain, drugged, her skull deformed (to indicate her most likely family links to the Inca rulers) and finally offered to the gods.

Her face was not pained, but not entirely at peace.

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