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Inca mummies found in Peru.

The first ice-encrusted corpse turned up in September atop a 20,700-foot peak in the Peruvian Andes. There, a teenage girl's frozen body protruded from a rocky outcrop. Shown at left in an eerie mug shot, she wore a fancy feather headdress and was wrapped in woven material. Pottery and small statues surrounded her lifeless form.

In October, investigators climbed back up the mountain and found two more frozen corpses at a slightly lower elevation. A girl of perhaps 10 to 12 years was found wearing a headdress; around her was a large stash of pottery. Nearby were the largely skeletal remains of a teenage boy. Again, woven material was wrapped around both bodies.

The three mummies apparently represent sacrificial offerings made by the Inca to their gods around 500 years ago, asserts Johan Reinhard, an archaeologist at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Reinhard codirected the expeditions that made the discoveries.

An ongoing eruption at a nearby volcano in the Andes melted enough snow to reveal the corpses and their burial sites, Reinhard says.

The mummies are now in storage in a freezer at the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Peru. Scientists plan to unwrap the bodies this month and examine preserved organs, tissue, and fluids. They hope to recover undamaged DNA for genetic analysis. Artifacts found with the mummies, such as the headdress-bedecked statuette shown at right, will provide a rare glimpse of Inca sacrificial rituals, according to Reinhard.
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Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Nov 11, 1995
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