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INTOXICATED BEFORE DEATH: Children used in Incan human sacrifices were kept inebriated for weeks

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 30th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Were they "feeling no pain?" New tests conducted on corpses more than 500 years old has confirmed theories that the children who were sacrificed in ancient Incan rituals were kept inebriated and stoned on drugs and alcohol before they were summarily executed.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to a new study, three Inca children were found mummified atop a 20,000-foot volcano in South America consumed increasing amounts of coca leaf and corn beer for up to a year before they were sacrificed.
 
Primitive sedation by plants and alcohol combined with the frigid, high-altitude setting may also explain how the children were killed - but there has been no evidence for direct violence, the researchers noted.

Coca leaf and corn beer consumption rises about six months before death and then skyrockets in the final weeks, especially for the eldest, a 13-year-old girl known as the "Ice Maiden."


"She was probably heavily sedated by the point at which she succumbs to death," Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom and the study's lead author said.


Based on detailed analyses of hair taken from the more than 500-year-old mummified remains, the dead bodies included a four-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy. The boy and girl were perhaps the maiden's attendants.

Earlier research showing the children ate more meat and corn during their final year. Taken together, the studies suggest the peasant children were selected for the ritual sacrifice and lived a high-status life until their death near the top of the Llullaillacao Volcano in Argentina.


The corn beer chicha and coca leaf, the plant that contains cocaine, are prominent features of Andean culture. Finding trace elements "is not a surprise in itself," John Verano, an anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans says.


"But it is particularly interesting the level of detail at which (the researchers) are able to look at it," he added. "It allows them to hypothesize why the older child of the three was drinking so much chicha in her last month of life and what that might have indicated about her lifestyle and activities."


Wilson believes that the story likely begins "far from the mountain" in the Inca capital of Cusco, Peru, where the Ice Maiden was taken to live "under the guardianship of priestesses" and passed her time weaving textiles and brewing chicha.


At about six months before death, a ceremony that involved ritual hair cutting - some clippings were found with the mummies - and that coincides with a peak in coca consumption.


The coca consumption and alcohol use then begin to rise sharply again in the weeks before death, probably as the Ice Maiden and two younger children were marched from Cusco to the volcano, stopping along the way for ceremonies that likely involved large amounts of coca and chicha.


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