In the month before her death as a sacrifice to Incan gods, a teenage girl drank heavily and chewed coca leaves, according to a new analysis of her mummified remains. The discovery suggests that the girl, known as the Maiden, was heavily sedated or perhaps already dead when she was entombed around 500 years ago in a shrine atop the Llullaillaco volcano on the border between Argentina and Chile. Her death was probably part of the sacrifice ritual called capacocha.
CT scans of the girl’s body exposed a mass of coca leaves tucked into her left cheek, an international team reports July 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Chemical analyses of her hair reveal that her coca use peaked about 6 months before her death, while her drinking spiked in her final weeks. A young boy entombed at the site also appears to have ingested relatively large amounts of alcohol; levels for the third body, a young girl, vary over the months before her death.
Unlike other mummified capacocha victims, who show signs of being whacked in the head, the cause of death of the Llullaillaco mummies remains unknown.