Part 2 (back to Part 1)
The Curse of the Mummy
On our way back from the market, we run into twenty or more shamans, all
congregating to head to Mt. Ampato where, just a year ago, Dr Reinhard found
"Juanita," an Inca girl sacrificed 500 years ago. Rumour has it that the
shamans are concerned about the removal of this sacred offering from the summit
of Ampato. Some even go so far as to say that Ampato is angry. According to
some locals, Ampato is a male mountain and his girlfriend, the mummy, has been
wrested away from him.
Strangely enough, several freak accidents have befallen Arequipa lately. When
fireworks hit an electrical wire, 36 people died on a bridge in the city. The
live wire danced around, striking people at will, electrocuting them to death.
Could this be a forboding sign from Ampato? Johan Reinhard reassures us this
is not why the shamans are going to Ampato. He says they are performing an
age-old ritual offering to the mountain gods. This revival of Inca tradition,
he says, has been growing over the years. Shamanism is making a comeback, and
people are reconnecting with the spiritualism in their mountain surroundings.
We begin to wonder what might happen to us on Sara Sara.
There is no doubt that the recent discoveries and scientific study of
high Inca sacrificial mummies have revealed much about the Inca. The
exhibition of Juanita, in a 16th-century monastery in Arequipa, has brought
visitors from around the world. Jose Antonio Chavez, Dean of the Faculty of
Archaeology at Catholic University in Arequipa, is in charge of the exhibit.
"We still have a lot to learn from Jaunita. When the exhibit is over, we'll
use that time to do more in-depth tests on her." Jose Antonio and three of his
students join us on the expedition. Jose further explains the impact Juanita
has had on some of the local people: "We have found that some of the locals
make offerings to Juanita. Some, when they see her, go down on their knees and
begin to pray." Local pride over Juanita is mixed—some are in favour of the
display of this historic find, and others are superstitious about the
repercussions. But all would most likely agree on the unquenchable human
fascination with mummies.
She sits innocently in a reclined position, her eyes wide open and mouth
revealing her teeth. A rare beauty emanates from her delicate features,
strong arms, and her long and elegant neck. It is hard to imagine that such a
young and fragile girl could have made it up Ampato. It is certain that she
couldn't have lasted very long in her sacrificial tomb. Strangely, she looks
both relaxed and tense at the same time, as if mentally she were prepared for
death, while her physical body was bracing against the painful and bitter
Photos: (2) courtesy The Mountain Institute.
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