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Peru’s Ice Maiden

Five hundred years after being sacrificed to the gods, a frozen Inca mummy was discovered on a Peruvian mountainside. Barely in her teens, this mummy, called both Juanita and Ice Maiden, was likely a human offering to deities believed to inhabit the impressive Andean Mountains. With the support of the National Geographic Society, Johan Reinhard led a team to the summit of Ampato, a 20,700-foot-high volcano, to recover her mummified remains.

In 1996, Johan Reinhard wrote in his first National Geographic magazine article, “in 15 years [I’ve] climbed more than a hundred peaks in the Andes and conducted various high-altitude archaeological excavations, but not once [had I seen] a mummy bundle like this on a mountain.”

Following the careful excavation of her remains and associated burial goods, the Ice Maiden’s DNA was studied to identify her place of origin. Researchers also analyzed the contents of her stomach to gather insight about her last meal. A feather-covered bag found near her remains contained coca leaves, a sacred offering 500 years ago and probably a way to dull the pain she experienced in her last moments.

Text Source: Alvarez, Stephen L., and Johan Reinhard. "Peru's Ice Maidens: Unwrapping the Secrets." National Geographic Magazine June 1996: [62]+.
Photograph by:
  • Robert Clark