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signmaking image Burial Artefacts
by Liesl Clark

The Lost Empire | The Sacrificial Ceremony | High Altitude Archaeology | Burial Artefacts

"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.

burial vessel image 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.

image of artifacts 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.

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