The Frozen Maiden
September 11, 2007 7:52 AM   Subscribe

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.
posted by timory (30 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
the girl of lightning

totally stealing that for a song title.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:03 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it wrong that I hear David Spade's voice when I see this picture?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 8:08 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow. The first one in the slideshow looks so well preserved you'd almost expect her to wake up. I saw one of the ice maidens at a museum in Arequipa and it was nothing like this - quite desiccated like you'd expect a mummy to be.

A surprising number of artifacts in the museum had been hit by lightning. The pieces of metal like the little golden statuettes of llamas must draw it like crazy.
posted by fleetmouse at 8:11 AM on September 11, 2007

But remember all the good stuff irrational supernaturalism brings us. Like.....wait, I'll think of one....I had a good one the other day....dang.
posted by DU at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2007 [5 favorites]

This can mean only one thing: We must invade Peru.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:13 AM on September 11, 2007

personally, i find it so fascinating that they found out one of the girls had sinusitis and a lung condition. maybe it makes her more... real?
posted by timory at 8:17 AM on September 11, 2007

I recall visiting Mayan country (Yucatan) years ago and had with our group a Mexican Univ prof as guide. We looked at deep sinkhole and he explained that virgins used to be fed, decorated and then tossed in as sacrifices. I asked him if that explained why there were no virgins left in the country. He did not like me.
posted by Postroad at 8:24 AM on September 11, 2007 [4 favorites]

Wow indeed, and fascinating to boot, thanks!

Her burial site was apparently struck by lightning, singeing her remains.
Man, did she ever get the short end of the cosmic stick.

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:27 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

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

Huh. I smell a business opportunity for the rich and famous.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:35 AM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

That was fascinating. Thanks timory.
posted by gomichild at 9:17 AM on September 11, 2007

Great post, thank you!
posted by agregoli at 9:49 AM on September 11, 2007

Strangely beautiful and utterly terrifying. I wonder if, amid the celebrations and alcohol, they knew what was really happening to them.
posted by aladfar at 9:59 AM on September 11, 2007

Timory, this is really the best of the web, no question.

The incredible preservation of the remains, along with the scientists' unusual and touching sensitivity to the reaction of removing these bodies from their graves, is remarkable.

It's obvious that the men and women who worked with these remains treated them with dignity and respect. They worked quietly to ensure that the children would be displayed properly, without fanfare and with the utmost care to preserve them in the state in which they were found, even providing a light switch on the display, so that those viewing the artifacts found with the bodies could choose not to see the disturbingly lifelike mummies in repose, frozen at the moment of death.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by misha at 10:35 AM on September 11, 2007

aw guys, thank you! i'm always so friggin scared to post an FPP... this is only my third.
posted by timory at 11:01 AM on September 11, 2007

Well, you are doing it right. This was really interesting.
posted by quin at 11:18 AM on September 11, 2007

Yeah, it really is fascinating. Particularly the respect accorded to the long-dead anonymous remains while still allowing the public to learn about them. That seems rare and pretty.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:25 AM on September 11, 2007

This is a very interesting post. I don't see the necessity in displaying the bodies though. I think they should be returned to the mountains where they were found. The article stated that Dr. Miremont "designed the lighting partly in hope of avoiding further offense to people who find it disturbing that the children, part of a religious ritual, were taken from the mountaintop shrine." He goes on to say "the native people who live in those regions do not want more bodies taken away." Perhaps someday they will be returned.
posted by Sailormom at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2007

Wow, this is amazing. Count me in as one who believes that the bodies should be returned. I do think that the scientists are treating them with the utmost respect, but if the people local to this site believe the children to be representative of deity (as the last link suggests), I don't think it's right to remove them.

(Also: I think I know what I'll be at this year's Religious Studies Department Hallowe'en party!)
posted by arcticwoman at 12:20 PM on September 11, 2007

arcticwoman: Eponysterical?
posted by danb at 12:52 PM on September 11, 2007

But remember all the good stuff irrational supernaturalism brings us. Like.....wait, I'll think of one....I had a good one the other day....dang.

I really wish I could figure out how this thought crosses someone's mind - even if not seriously, then taken seriously by several other people - after reading about a specific 500-year-old Incan sacrifice.
posted by hypervenom at 1:39 PM on September 11, 2007

Do they ever do that? Have they ever done that? Returned historically important human sacrifice bodies to the place they were found? I'm honestly curious, I've never heard of a scientific find like that being put back.
posted by agregoli at 2:13 PM on September 11, 2007

I saw the presentation about this by Dr. Constanza Ceruti one of the high altitude archaeologists involved in this excavation. She made some comments that some of the sites like these she investigated had already been looted or partially destroyed. In addition global warming would further endanger the artifacts on these mountain summits.
posted by andendau at 3:23 PM on September 11, 2007

agregoli, yea, it does happen sometimes here in the U.S. with native American remains, usually after huge legal endeavors by N.A. tribes.

This is a fantastic post. I'm glad that the bodies are being displayed even if only for a while. The fact that they are so incredibly well preserved will make for some fantastic study.

It was actually very stirring to see them, looking so human and not just as icky/interesting things. In fact it gave me the feeling that there was a lot of love involved. I imagine that these sacrificial kids were absolutely adored in life.
posted by snsranch at 4:07 PM on September 11, 2007

agregoli: Dickson Mounds in Lewiston IL used to display bodies that were uncovered on the site. I went there several times in the 1970's when I was in grade school. I think it was in the late 80's or early 90's when the museum decided to re-bury the bodies. This site has some information on controversies concerning archaeology.
posted by Sailormom at 4:21 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

snsranch: yes, yes. i have a really intense fascination with seeing historical objects of any kind because i always start thinking, "how many people touched/used/walked on this thing over the years?" which of course leads me to imagine those people, who they were, what their lives were like...

seeing such an incredibly well preserved body - even better preserved than those bog people they found a few years back - it just blew me away. it's like time travel!
posted by timory at 4:39 PM on September 11, 2007

Sounds like the setup for a Mountain Goats song.

That hair is crazy-preserved.
posted by wemayfreeze at 5:29 PM on September 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing she forgot her safe word.
posted by pax digita at 6:23 PM on September 11, 2007

Just adding my name to list of those somewhat disturbed by the premise of an institution such as a museum exhibiting skeletal remains. Regardless of the amount of sensitivity shown by the scientists and curators, and the fact that the bodies would not be preserved if they remained in the elements - I am left with the sense of wonder about why our curiosity to know renders everything an artifact. Also, does the museum's mission to educate the public - and our desire to know - trump this, particularly if the community is divided on whether or not to display the childrens' remains?(It wasn't clear if some of the pro-display group were descends of this group of people). Is anyone here particularly attracted to the idea of someone displaying the remains of their child to the general public, just because it would help them 'understand' what clothing we wore/what we looked like in the early 21st century? (Ooh, that dead body is just like me!) Is there some reason why some form of re-creation (Madame Tussauds comes to mind) isn't sufficient?
posted by anitanita at 10:10 PM on September 11, 2007

anitanlta: yes, i am attracted to that idea.
posted by timory at 6:52 AM on September 12, 2007

Just adding my name to list of those somewhat disturbed by the premise of an institution such as a museum exhibiting skeletal remains.

I'm adding my name to the list of people puzzled by those being disturbed - museums have been doing this since forever - I've seen mummies in museums since I was a little kid, for example.

Thanks for the info about returning these people to the discovery site, everyone.
posted by agregoli at 7:13 AM on September 12, 2007

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