Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Royal Mummies of Cuzco and the Capacocha of the Inca Provinces

Who were they?
The royal Inca mummies were the rulers of the once-mighty Inca Empire. They ruled a large portion of the Andes Mountains of South America from approximately 1100 to 1500 AD, ending with the Spanish conquest of the area (“Mummies”, 2000). The Capacocha mummies were small children who were offered as sacrifices. According to archaeologist Juan Schobinger, the sacrifices often involved the child of a chief. It is also believed that the sacrificed child had to be perfect (Clark, 1998b). 

How were they found?
The mummies were mostly found in a fetal position, wrapped with leather or cloth. They were placed in either baskets, or under big ceramic jars, which tended to be decorated, and buried with clothing, food and other items (“Mummies”, 2000). 

Who was mummified?
We know that the rulers of the Inca Empire were mummified, but some archaeologist think that the Inca mummified all of their dead, and not just the elite. However, nobody really knows for sure, other than the rulers were not the only ones mummified (“Mummies”, 2000). Infants, children, and adults were also mummified.

How were they mummified?
The mummies of the rulers have been mummified artificially by the Inca themselves. The exact process that was used is not known because archaeologists have not yet recovered any of these remains (“Inca”, n.d.). There is some debate over the possible use of violence in the Capacocha sacrifices, as skull fractures have been found on most of the mummies; however, there is speculation that this was a way to knock the children out. There is also evidence that they were given chicha, maize alcohol, to ease the pain. The sacrificed children were then left on the mountain peaks, where they died and later on were mummified by natural causes, such as freezing mountain temperatures and the arid climate (Clark, 1998b). 

What happened to the mummies/ the mummification process?
The mummies of the rulers were kept in Cuzco. There they were treated as if they were still alive. They were displayed during important ceremonies, servants cared for their estates, and sometimes they were even consulted on important issues (Povis & Hirth, n.d.). However, none have been found due to the arrival of the Spanish, who destroyed Cuzco, the capitol of the Incan Empire (“Inca”, n.d.). The Spanish conquerors also banned mummification and removed all the mummies that they found. It is believed that the Spanish sought out the mummies for their own religious objections to the practice of mummification and for the gold and other precious metals that were buried with the mummies (“Mummies”, 2000). The sacrificial mummies from Capacocha were left in tombs in the Andes mountains, the sites of their deaths and mummification (Clark, 1998a). 

Have any burial sites been found?
Yes! In 1875, a very large burial site was discovered at Ancón. This discovery included hundreds of shafts leading to tombs with mummy bundles. Due to the dry climate and high salt content of the region, these mummies were very well-preserved (“Mummies”, 2000).. Around 115 sacrificial mummies have been discovered in the mountains of the Andes One of the most famous of these mummies is Juanita, discovered in 1995 by Dr. Johan Reinhard. She is the best-preserved Incan mummy to be discovered so far (Clark, 1998a). 

Over the Course of the blog...
We aim to explore the nature of the rituals that were performed as a part of the mummification process, to what end mummification was undertaken, to compare this practice to mummification in other cultures, such as sacrificial rituals, and more!

Works Cited

Clark, L. (1998). Ice mummies of the Inca. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Clark, L. (1998). The sacrificial ceremony. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Inca mummies. (n.d.). Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Mummies of the world. (2000). Retrieved February 7, 2012, from

Povis, B., & Hirth, B. (n.d.). Religion in the Inca Empire. Retrieved February 7, 2012, from