"What's remarkable is that we found fifteen artefacts buried at the site. This
tells us that Sara Sara was a very important mountain to the Inca. Never
before have we found so many offerings at one site." Johan Reinhard's
thirteen-year quest to return to Sara Sara, excavate at the summit, and
discover a sacrificial Inca child has finally been fulfilled. Not only did he
and his team return from the icy slopes of Sara Sara with a mummy, but they
have uncovered a collection of traditional Inca burial offerings that tell an
age-old story of their own.
When the Inca sacrificed children on mountain summits 500 years ago in the
capacocha ritual, burial artefacts always accompanied the children in
their journey to the `Other World.' Buried alongside the mummies are
statuettes, carvings, and castings made from gold, silver, wood, and
spondyllus, a spiny oyster shell from the coast of Ecuador that was highly
prized by the Inca.
How were we to interpret the beautiful artefacts found on Sara Sara with
Sarita? The artefacts will most likely be archived in Arequipa at the Catholic
University, where they may sit for years out of the view of the public until
funding will enable the University to build a museum for the recent Inca mummy
finds (like Juanita and Sarita) and the artefacts.
So we decided to take advantage of the technology that made this online
adventure possible, and bring the artefacts—digitally—to an expert for
his opinion. Bill Conklin, Research Associate at the Textile Museum in
Washington, DC, was astonished by some of the finds. Although it's not quite
the same as actually holding the artefacts in hand, Bill Conklin and I sat
scrutinizing the images—shot literally days before on Sara Sara's summit—on our respective computer monitors. We soon found out that Sarita had, buried
with her, a "beautiful and unprecedented" treasure. What follows is a brief
synopsis of our discussion.