A terrible Inca ritual’s 500-year-old corpse named Juanita

It was like a massive baseball bat hit to the skull. The Inca shaman, who in this case also acted as an executioner, made a strong swing and did not hesitate for a moment. The head of the minor victim of the ceremonial execution, to the glory of the great deities, jumped back sharply under the blow of the blunt. The skull cracked like an egg shell and its interior filled with blood. The girl sentenced to death was not afraid, did not beg for mercy or cried. She was probably so drunk and stuffed with hallucinogens that she hadn’t even realized that her life had just ended …

For peoples whose lives depend on fertile crops, natural disasters are a harbinger of famine, and thus – a harbinger of a tragedy that could call into question the fate of the tribe. For the Incas, powerful rulers of a huge empire who, until the arrival of the Spanish stray, ruled the territories of modern Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina, one such misfortune could be, for example, a volcanic eruption.Awakened by the gods, the colossus spat lava, coughed thick smoke and … caused nasty climatic anomalies. The inhabitants of the area of today’s Arequipa knew perfectly well that after such an event, the coming years would be extremely dry and that the gods should be begged for grace. Of course, we now know that neither the luminous Inti nor the Pachamama upset with her human children was responsible for this phenomenon, but the presence of solid particles in the air. Many studies have shown that after a volcanic eruption for up to 5 long years in a given region, there may be a tendency to drastically reduce the frequency of precipitation, and even to regular drought.

So when the Ampato volcano, rising to a height of 6,288 meters above sea level, located on the rim of the deepest canyon in the world (Colca), became the next candidate after Misti and Sabancaya to shoot hot magma, the Inca priests decided that something had to be done to prevent more the calamities of the crop failure and the suffering of the people chosen by the Sun. So the wise men gathered to prepare a sensible rescue plan. The council probably did not last too long and all priests decided that the best solution would be the so-called capacocha (in Quechua, the Inca language that exists to this day – Qhapaq hucha), i.e. a real commitment to the strict gods to serve as a form of begging for invisible, but for some reason very dissatisfied beings, pity for the human species.

This ceremony was, in practice, nothing more than human sacrifice. And surely, from the point of view of the rulers of the empire, the best solution would be to kill a village idiot, a hunchbacked, ailing old man, who is of little use, or a neighbor indicated by the local community, which allegedly maintains unhealthy relations with lamas. But would such a sacrifice satisfy the grumpy gods? Well, it would probably make them even more angry. So the idea of capacocha was completely different. Children were to serve as victims of this cruel ceremony. And it is so selected, healthy, pretty, devoid of any physical blemishes. In this case, the gods wanted the girl dead.

Juanita, because that was the name that archaeologists gave the unfortunate teenager, probably came, like all female victims of this ritual, from a monastery for the so-called virgins of the sun – chosen for their beauty, origin, intelligence and talent, perfectly educated girls, separated from society by a thick wall of an Inca monastery. DNA research indicates that Juanita was born around 1440-1450 AD, during the reign of the ninth ruler of the Pachacuti empire, and came from the Ngöbe tribe – quite far from the borders of Tawantinsuyu, because they live near modern Panama. Many elements of Juanita’s genetic code, however, were similar to those found in the peoples of the Andes along virtually all of their length. There are some theories that a child may have originatedfrom a high-ranking family belonging to the most privileged noble caste.

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