Tests performed on three mummies found in the Argentinian mountains have shed new light on the Inca practice of child sacrifice.
An analysis of the mummies, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that alcohol and drugs played a large role in the weeks and months leading up to the sacrifice of these children.
Before Incan high priests embarked on the pilgrimage to take the victims to the top of mountains, the children were given diets high in animal protein and maize–a diet made for the elite. Along the demanding journey, coca leaves, the plant from which cocaine is derived, were fed to the younger sacrifices to assist in their breathing in the high altitude and ensure their arrival to the burial site.
The children were then given an intoxicating drink once they reached the burial site to minimize fear, pain and resistance. They were killed by a forceful blow to the head, strangulation or by being left to die from exposure to the extreme cold.
Scientists say that many of the victims’ organs were intact, as if they had died a few weeks ago. By testing samples of their hair, they could determine the type of diet they were on before their deaths, as well as reveal any substances in their bodies.
According to the Inca, children were selected for sacrifice and chosen to go and live with the Gods because they were considered the purest beings. Specific individuals were possibly chosen for their nobility and beauty. Many Inca children were offered as sacrifice, especially during or after important events, such as the death of the Sapa Inca (the emperor) or during a famine. These sacrifices were known as capacocha.