Satellite Dispatch 9/25/96 Mummy Named "Sarita"
Written and Photographed By Liesl Clark
Two hundred villagers cram into the room in the remote village of Quilcata.
It's standing room only, with several people peering in through windows on the
outside. Was it truly a mummy that was found a few days ago on their sacred
mountain, Sara Sara?
"We haven't unwrapped the mummy yet," Dr. Johan Reinhard reminds the gathered
people from the pueblo, "so we don't know exactly what we'll find underneath
the textiles. But it IS a mummy. We got it out of its intact tomb, complete
with its attendant textile wrappings, unlike the skeletons we found this summer
on Pichu Pichu. Those were really skeletons, only bones. The Sara Sara mummy
is much more intact. It may have some flesh and more textiles or artefacts
The villagers were gathered to hear about the discovery of a mummy 7,000 feet
above their home on the summit of 18,000-foot Sara Sara in the Peruvian Andes.
The mummy, like the mountain has now become a deity for them—a powerful
force in their daily lives which affects weather and the success of their
crops. At the meeting, villagers asked questions of Johan and Dr. Jose Antonio
Chavez, another expedition member and Dean of Archaeology at the Catholic
University in Arequipa. It was decided that the mummy would be named "Sarita"
as in little Sara, after the mountain upon which she was sacrificed by the Inca
500 years ago.
"The big question for us now," says Johan, "is exactly how intact the body is.
The head covering is so tight you don't have eyeballs and mostly have a skull.
But we can't tell whether there is flesh until we actually unwrap her." The
textiles that surround Sarita are in excellent condition, considering they have
been in an ice and mud thaw cycle for the past half of a millenium.
Read about Sarita's journey from Sara Sara to Arequipa on Friday. How does
the archaeology team transport this important find on a two day journey across
the high dry plains of Peru?