"Ice Mummies: Frozen in Heaven"
SPONSOR: During the following program, look for NOVA's web markers which lead you to more information at our Web site.
SPONSOR: Tonight, on NOVA, high atop an Andean summit, a little boy's frozen body reveals dark secrets of a lost culture. Did the Inca sacrifice their children to appease the gods? Now, a NOVA team returns to an ancient burial ground to unearth the answer. What mysteries lie frozen in heaven?
SPONSOR: Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television.
SPONSOR: This program is funded in part by Northwestern Mutual Life, which has been protecting families and businesses for generations. Have you heard from the quiet company? Northwestern Mutual Life.
SPONSOR: And by Iomega, makers of personal storage solutions for your computer, so you can create more, share more, save more, and do more of whatever it is you do. Iomega, because it's your stuff.
SPONSOR: And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Viewers like you.
NARRATOR: Rising high above the South American continent, the Andes seem untouched by earthly struggles. But their pristine, ice-capped peaks are haunted by a dark secret: a deadly mountaintop ritual. These frozen bodies—all children—date to the time of the Inca—the great civilization that ruled the Andes 500 years ago. How they died has remained shrouded in mystery. Now, a new kind of scientist—part scholar, part adventurer—is unlocking the secrets of the ancient mummies. Anthropologist Johan Reinhard has spent nearly two decades exploring Andean peaks.
JOHAN REINHARD: For about sixteen years I've done research on people's beliefs about mountains in the Andes because it's like a key to understanding a lot of parts of Andean cosmology, religion.
NARRATOR: Today, Johan begins a climb to the top of Sara Sara, a giant volcano in southern Peru. When he first climbed the mountain in 1983, Johan found the ruins of ancient walls on the summit. He hoped to excavate the site, but never got the chance. Violent weather and terrorism prevented his return for more than 13 years. Now that the strife has subsided, Johan is mounting an expedition to Sara Sara, along with a team of Peruvian archaeologists. Joining them are residents of Quilcata, the town at the base of the mountain. Like their Inca ancestors, the villagers believe that Sara Sara has supernatural powers. The mountains are held to govern the weather, commanding the course of the clouds and bringing life-giving rain. If the mountain god fails to provide, disaster will follow. But was the Incas' fear of these deities so great, they would sacrifice their children to appease them? The Incas had no written language, so much of what we know about them comes from chronicles written by the Spanish who conquered the Inca Empire in the 16th century. These rare drawings depicting Inca life are the work of a descendant of Inca nobility who grew up under Spanish rule. When the conquistadors landed in 1532, the Incas were at the height of their power. Their kingdom, stretching from Ecuador to Chile, rivaled the size of the Roman Empire. Like the Romans, the Incas were innovative engineers. Undaunted by vertical terrain, they built majestic mountaintop retreats like Machu Picchu. Their distinctive, imperial style was everywhere, from their architecture, to their intricately woven fabrics. Bill Conklin is an Inca scholar specializing in textiles. He believes that one of the key ingredients in the Incas' success was their unique attitude toward conquest.
WILLIAM CONKLIN: The Inca were a cleverly imperial people. They were on the one hand a military empire, but they accomplished a lot of their conquering by persuasion. They were enormously clever at confronting tribes that were alien initially, offering to worship their deities, incorporate them into the Inca kingdom, let them join the brotherhood so to speak.
NARRATOR: One ancient Andean tradition that the Incas embraced was mountain worship.
CONKLIN: The people of the Andes previous to the Incas did worship mountains, but in a different way. They seemed to have worshipped mountains from a distance, but the Incas are the ones who got the idea of climbing this ladder to heaven and going up to the top of the mountain and actually engaging in their ritual practices at that spot which must have been their concept of heaven.
NARRATOR: While still on the lower slopes of Sara Sara, Johan's team discovers evidence of ancient mountain worship. It's in a cave, thousands of feet below the summit.
WALTER DIAZ: We've found metal artifacts along with some ceramics. From the ceramics, we think these are from the Wari culture. Further studies will determine the meaning of all this. We've also found human skulls, as well as animal remains.
NARRATOR: The finds are intriguing, but they're not Inca. They were probably left by the Wari, a culture that flourished in Peru 500 years before the Inca. On his last trip, Johan saw Inca ruins 1000 feet higher up.
REINHARD: There's an Inca site that's out of the way. It's what we're talking about doing is sending the burros up ahead with some gear and some of us splitting off and heading on over to take a look at the Inca site.
NARRATOR: Sara Sara is over 150 miles south of Cuzco, the Inca capital, but according to a Spanish chronicle, it was among the most venerated mountains in the empire. Johan hopes the ruins will help him confirm the mountain's prominence.
REINHARD: We're at 15,200 feet, about 220 feet and we're at a hill top which has been a whole series of structures built. They look to be clearly Inca, some with walls up to about a meter and a half, about 5 feet high. The number of the structures and the layout indicates that this was a staging point on the way up to the summit of Sara Sara.
NARRATOR: Johan's partner on the expedition is Doctor Jose Antonio Chavez, an archeologist from the Catholic University in Arequipa.
ANTONIO CHAVEZ: We are in two very important, large rooms here and nearby are a couple of small corrals. There are also living quarters probably for the people who fetched and carried material such as wood for the ascent of the Sara Sara volcano.
NARRATOR: The complex appears to be a huge staging area used by the Incas on their journeys up the mountain.
REINHARD: What we see here up in the background is the western northern summit. There's one we can't see just in the back where the ruins are located, but clearly to us anyway it looks like the Incas would have gone up perhaps that scree slope or perhaps up this ridge, then up that scree slope to get to the summit and it's one of the few routes of access that you can get on this mountain because it's quite steep all the way round.
NARRATOR: Johan's interest in Sara Sara was sparked in part by intriguing references in the Spanish Chronicles. But was Peru's past accurately portrayed in the invaders' accounts? Sonia Guillen is one of Peru's leading experts on mummified bodies. She has spent years studying the continents of exposed graves in the vast coastal desert of southern Peru. Like many other investigators, she is highly suspicious of the Spanish chronicles.
SONIA GUILLEN: You have to take chronicles with, with a grain of salt. You, you, there're chroniclers and chroniclers, they're the ones that were closer to, to, to the events. Those are the ones that heard about it, they, they were not close to them. They also had their own intentions. Some of the chroniclers, for example, were sent to destroy the religious activity of the Indians. They made sure that they looked like pagan people. That led to the belief that the priests were exaggerating in their presentation of rituals.
NARRATOR: Accounts of one Inca ceremony in particular seemed exaggerated: capa cocha—a mysterious ritual in which the Incas sacrificed their children to the mountain gods.
GUILLEN: The capa cocha ritual was always presented as very bloody and, and very unchristian.
NARRATOR: The descriptions were so grotesque, the scholars doubted the ceremony actually took place.
CONKLIN: Although the evidence for capa cocha has been there in the Spanish chroniclers for years, nobody paid much attention to it until the discovery of frozen bodies which suddenly makes the whole subject real.
NARRATOR: Deep in the bowels of a museum in Chile, a translucent coffin holds evidence that suggesting capa cocha was all too real. Found on a mountaintop in 1954, he's been locked in a freezer ever since. The frozen body of a young boy. He died 500 years ago—a child of the Inca. They named him the El Plomo boy, for the peak where he was discovered. Dr. Silvia Quevedo Kawasaki leads the team of conservationists which is struggling to keep the child as well preserved in the lab as he was in his icy tomb.
KAWASAKI: We do this every 5 or 10 years, but we haven't done it since 1985. This little piece I'm removing will be sent away for analysis in order to calculate humidity. He has a characteristic smell caused by changes in body fat. Although it's a strong, penetrating smell, it's a good one. As doctors we're guided by smells, by touch, by sensitivity. Everything available to us is a valid resource. Sometimes, the smell tells us his condition. And in this case, it's good.
NARRATOR: The El Plomo boy was well adorned with exquisite Inca textiles and jewelry, all perfectly preserved. Found with him was an array of artifacts, including small pouches containing his baby teeth and nail clippings. There was a gold llama, and a distinctive silver figurine. These were all classic Inca offerings to the gods. And so, it seems, was the boy. He was a capa cocha sacrifice.
KAWASAKI: To me, he's an exceptional human being. He still embodies all the energy of the people who went with up the mountains to sacrifice him to the gods. You can still see it—the energy in him. His face looks very peaceful. He passed from sleep to death without realizing it.
NARRATOR: A gentile death—in stark contrast to the Spaniards' gruesome descriptions. Now that actual evidence was emerging, Inca attitudes toward human sacrifice had to be thoroughly reexamined.
REINHARD: What the Incas did is very different from a lot of societies where you did human sacrifice. They weren't doing it wholesale, for example, like the Aztecs were, or eating some of the victims. They were quite the contrary, was a whole different concept. You had the parents of the children actually get involved in many cases. We know that. And it was an honor to have your child be selected.
NARRATOR: The children chosen for sacrifice were said to be perfect—In death, they would be deified.
REINHARD: Children were considered to be pure. Your pre-puberty child still hadn't gotten the sins of the adults so that they viewed it as one of the best emissaries to the deities.
NARRATOR: The Spanish described in detail the ceremonies leading up to the sacrifice.
CONKLIN: The children were brought to Cuzco, their capital, and they were paraded or marched to these mountaintops across the country, in some cases hundred of miles. They walked apparently in straight lines up and down the mountain tops in a very formal ritual procession with songs and ceremonies involved all the way, until the final moment up at the top of the mountain when the child was sacrificed and the burial then occurred.
NARRATOR: The frozen mountaintop preserved forever elements of the ceremony, including evidence of the child's long journey.
KAWASAKI: His feet show signs of having walked a long way. One foot is callused, and both feet are swollen. Also his fingers are frost-bitten -this is very significant. It means he was alive when he reached his destination.
REINHARD: Over the last four decades, many archaeologists have tried to find other capa cocha children. Most have come up empty handed. Then, in 1995, Johan Reinhard discovered a frozen girl—the first ever found—on Mount Ampato, in Peru. Nicknamed Juanita, this five hundred year old mummy is amazingly well preserved. When she went on display in Washington D.C., thousands flocked to see her. Juanita's popularity helped Johan fund further research, including his return to Sara Sara. He and his teammates have been working their way up to the slopes for three days now. At 18,000 feet, the air is very thin. Every step is an effort. Reaching the summit brings little relief... On this expedition, the hardest part isn't the climb, but the digging—through several feet of rock and solid ice.
REINHARD: Well it's looking very snowy. The concern now is just how deep the snow is because we're going to have to obviously clear it. We're hopeful that this part is still intact because you can see the edge here, so that this hasn't been hopefully excavated. We'll find out when we clear the snow. I'm going down further here. This, from 1983 this section of the wall has collapsed and the concern could be that this would be, have been due to some looting or digging in here. We won't know until we excavate. It could also just be natural, you know I mean it's been quite awhile, it's 13 years, and the depth of the walls is pretty clear when you start looking down here. It's about, it's almost 2 meters there and as you go around this is all part of the wall here that we're seeing. Comes out around here, it's about 2 meters right down here. It's over 6 feet, so they went to a lot of work to make this broad area, put in fill. Imagine the amount of loads they must have taken from around here to, to fill this all in.
NARRATOR: The summit of Sara Sara is a huge complex of man-made platforms, shaped by stone retaining walls and filled with gravel. Johan is standing on the lower of the two main terraces, visible only as stone circles above the snow. On the opposite northern side, a collection of boulders marks a small platform. To the east, a series of four terraces runs down between rocky outcrops. Johan believes the southern end holds the most promise.
REINHARD: Where we're standing right now is on one of the south-eastern corners and one of the deepest corners and that's generally the deepest places is where you usually find something, so we could be right now standing on top of potentially a human sacrifice, but certainly some kind of offerings I would think would be in this section right here.
NARRATOR: Was this the last sight seen by a child 500 years ago? The Incas intended their offerings to last for eternity. But in less than 100 years, Catholic monks were retracing the children's footsteps with a very different aim.
GUILLEN: The Spanish came here to indoctrinate the natives, so they, they had this very solace purpose of changing their pagan ways. Part of that implied destroying their gods and destroying their shrines, making sure all those beliefs would disappear.
NARRATOR: The monks didn't merely record Inca traditions: they also did their best to uproot them. They hunted down and destroyed anything sacred to the culture, including the bodies of capa cocha children.
GUILLEN: In a way you could say that they succeeded because everybody here became, in the Andes, became Christian. They accepted the, the, the coming religion, but, but they also didn't succeed because the Andean traditions were so strong that eventually they, they merged with some of the Christian beliefs. There, there's this level in which some of the local gods just got different names so I don't think the Vatican would recognize what's being practiced here as what they would expect the Catholic religion to be.
ARCADIO MAMANI: This ceremony is carried out when you want to ask the mountain for something good. in this case, we're asking the mountain to protect us. Help us in everything we do, so that we should not suffer any misfortune. This is a way of achieving harmony with the mountain.
NARRATOR: Before digging, Johan's team makes a traditional offering to the mountain of llama fetuses.
REINHARD: The llama fetus represents like the entire llama and, but it's the essence of the llama. In Andean beliefs, you can have things that are very small, but since they have been ritually invoked, they, they have all the essence of the entire thing and when you offer it you're offering the entire animal. Fetuses are believed to be a favorite food of the mountain deities so they're very pleased when they get these. Through time, you begin to see the mountains in a different way, you begin to see them just like the villagers do. They say they're alive and for you they come alive in a certain way because you're beginning to see how they view them.
NARRATOR: On the summit, the mountain seems reluctant to yield its secrets. The team must chop through six feet of 500 year old gravel—now frozen rock hard. Every spare container is commandeered for boiling snow, to help soften the ground.
REINHARD: Where water really comes important in a sense not so much here—just can't make that much of a dent in this kind of frost. When it comes in really important is when you find some artifact or among the and then you can work around it carefully, or even sometimes they're frozen rock hard into the ice, a mixture of rock and ice, and you can melt, you know melt it around it and free it without damaging the textiles.
NARRATOR: Hacking through the frozen gravel is exhausting labor. The air contains about half the oxygen found at sea level, so each worker can swing his pick only a few times before stopping to catch his breath.
REINHARD: It's inevitable during the course of dealing with hard terrain like this that some time you're going to actually hit an object and fortunately that's happened very rarely and usually what you get is a bit of textile or a bit of material, straw or something like that which gives an indication of something there and then work almost stops and you start working very carefully and then you free it up. But imagine let's say just there was a statue right there.
NARRATOR: But there's no need to imagine a find—in a matter of hours, Jose Antonio Chavez spots the real thing—A silver Inca shawl pin lying on the surface of the ground. Soon he finds five similar pins. None are buried.
CHAVEZ: These are shawl pins, probably silver. They were used as clasps for clothing or cloaks. It depended on the wearer. Usually women wore them. They are a well known feature of the Inca world. We found them lying on the surface and I assume they were part of some sacrifice that took place. But we haven't found anything else nearby.
NARRATOR: Although this shows the site was used by the Incas, it could be bad news for the archaeologists. The Incas usually buried their offerings. Artifacts found on the surface often mean another sort of excavation has taken place. It's a problem afflicting every archaeological site in Peru, looters. An ancient cemetery near where Sonia Guillen works is a typical example.
GUILLEN: In this area we have very good preservation of organic material and this is what the looters expose. Unfortunately this has been greatly destroyed by the activity of looters looking for pottery, textiles and, and hopefully they, they did expect to find some gold. Because of some superstitions, when they find the mummy they will take the head away violently and throw it away and separate it from the body. Looters, looters are grave robbers and they're thieves you know, they're destroying evidence that should be important for them, for themselves, and they're—This is a resource that like any type of resource is, it will end you know, the more they destroy the more we will have less to study, less to protect, less to show in museums, less to keep for generations to come, so they are our worst enemy for any type of, not just the scientific work that needs to be done, but the protection of our heritage.
NARRATOR: The looters, also known as huaqeros, will go to any lengths to find capa cocha burials.
CONKLIN: The only advantage that the burials have is that they are at such remote locations and so inaccessible but of course the fame and world-wide publicity associated with this undoubtedly inspires the huaqueros and the diggers to climb to the mountain tops and dig for their portion of the gold and the rewards that they can find there.
REINHARD: There's hardly any mountain top that has not been looted, including this one. Unfortunately there has been use of dynamite that have exploded bodies. Once I even pulled out to my amazement an ear from a wall at 20,000 feet, so it was exploded by people who wanted to get at the artifacts.
NARRATOR: The threat of looting heightens the team's resolve to find and conserve Inca burial sites. But now it seems this site may disappoint them. After several fruitless days, Jose decides to give up digging on the north side. Johan perseveres, and at last, there's a glimmer of hope: a layer of grass buried within the main, southern platform.
REINHARD: What we've hit at about 50 centimeters is some nice batch of what they call Ichu. It's a wild grass and some pieces of wood. That's a good indication that we're on the right track. You wouldn't find this kind of thing unless there was some kind of offering that they were making.
NARRATOR: Grass and trees don't grow at this altitude, so they must have been carried up the mountain, probably by the Incas.
NARRATOR: The site looks more promising, but not the weather. A fierce lightning storm suddenly sweeps over the summit. Everyone scrambles down to camp, 500 feet below. The storm is a sobering reminder of the violent forces that lurk about the mountain. It was this kind of power which struck fear into the hearts of the Incas—and moved them to appease the mountain gods with gifts. One of those gifts is kept here in a freezer in Argentina. The body of a young boy, one of only a handful of well-preserved capa cocha children ever found. He was discovered in 1985 on Mount Aconagua, the tallest peak in the Western Hemisphere. The top of his head was damaged by exposure, but the rest is almost perfectly preserved. Although the El Plomo boy from Chile appeared to have died peacefully, the final moments of the Aconcagua boy were different.
JUAN SCHOBINGER: We found in his intestines some liquid that the child ingested. With the help of chemical and other analysis, we concluded that the last food consumed by the child was a liquid containing the red color of achiote, a color symbolizing life.
CARLOS DE CICCO: Achiote is a vegetable product, very similar to saffron in its chemical properties and color. It was found in the vomit which can still be seen on the teeth. They are stained a reddish color as a result of the vomit.
NARRATOR: The clothes he was wearing were covered in vomit and diarrhea, both stained red by the achiote dye.
DE CICCO: The child must have realized that he was about to be sacrificed on one of the highest burial grounds in the world. So during the ceremony the child must have been very distressed. I suppose the diarrhea and vomiting which the child suffered in his final moments were the result of this state of stress. These loose stools show the child was, I think, very, very frightened—absolutely terrified.
NARRATOR: No one can know for certain what this young child felt in his final moments, but clearly, he was physically ill. Exhaustion and high altitude could have contributed to his nausea. But his death was far from natural. The seven-year old was so tightly wrapped in textiles that his ribs were broken, his pelvis dislocated. The life was literally squeezed out of him. Was this the norm for capa cocha? Were the Spanish right when they described a violent ritual? The discovery of Juanita provided new opportunities to investigate. Many of the tourists who visit Juanita comment on her calm, almost saint-like air. But during her trip to Washington, the mummy was CAT scanned by an advanced 3D imaging system at Johns Hopkins University. The test revealed a darker secret behind the serene expression.
ELLIOT FISHMAN: This image is an image of her skull looking directly at us and the first thing you can see is her orbits. The eye socket, the left orbit is nice and round, it's perfectly normal. The right orbit is kind of compressed and you can look at the lateral wall and there's actually a fracture. If we then rotate this image and you can see this line in her frontal bone which is evidence of a skull fracture. It's a fairly significant fracture and if you look at both of these together it's a type of evidence that someone who is struck by a hard blow on the side of the head, maybe by a rock or by a stick or by a club, and basically bled internally and that's how she died.
NARRATOR: Research on Juanita is just beginning. Scientists hope her internal organs, as well as the textiles and offerings found with her, will reveal more about what kind of life she led. DNA analysis of her frozen flesh may help determine what part of the Inca empire she came from. Juanita was a great discovery for Johan, yet something was missing, her tomb. Landslides on Mount Ampato destroyed her ceremonial burial place, and Juanita rolled 200 feet down the mountain. The perfect capa cocha burial; is yet to be found, and Johan suspects it may be hidden somewhere on Sara Sara. So far, there are no signs of the coveted ancient grave site. After five days, the team has found nothing more than the shawl pins. Then, an archaeological student, Walter Diaz, spots something in his small patch of gravel.
DIAZ: The first thing I noticed was a little piece of textile and what might be hairs. I don't know what kind of hair. It might be llama or guinea pig. But here you can see the little piece of red fabric. Look, it's a statuette.
REINHARD: It's a male, you call from the top. Because of the flat head just from here I can tell that it's a male. You can see the textiles starting to come around, see around the body.
NARRATOR: What Walter has found is a tiny silver statue wrapped in textiles, a classic capa cocha offering. As they clear the earth away, the workers find a second silver statue, a female, the same design as the one found with the El Plomo boy.
REINHARD: There's probably a lot more offerings in the nooks and crannies around here. The mountain was extremely sacred for the Incas and the people in this entire region. Over the years you're bound to get a number of offerings.
NARRATOR: Sure enough, as Walter digs deeper, a gold figurine emerges from the soil.
DIAZ: It's probably a gold vicuna. Usually we find silver or gold llamas. This time it is something different. Possibly, it is a vicuna.
NARRATOR: Next is a figurine carved from a seashell, once as valuable to the Incas as gold.
DIAZ: It's a tiny llama figure made from a spondylus shell. That's a marine mollusc found in Ecuador, north of Peru.
NARRATOR: Seashell miniatures, and gold and silver statuettes, were offered to the gods along with the capa cocha children. Although the shawl pins were found to the north, Walter's statues came out of a small rock crevice high on the summit.
REINHARD: What's ironic is this is a teeny little platform. Those were huge platforms we have on the other side we haven't found anything yet, but that's probably because it's steeper. You have a small platform like this and you have a better chance of finding something quickly because it's shallow.
NARRATOR: Then, finally, a tantalizing find over the cover on the main platform. A small silver rod glints within the ice.
REINHARD: What they just uncovered here is a silver llama figurine, you just see a bit of it here. Beautifully preserved and what's really exciting to us is that just below this, some of this straw and robe and we had thought there might be a burial here and here we see this hole, in other words we're seeing ice which means there's a hole there and with this llama figurine in front of it. It's quite possible that we will find a human sacrifice here when we continue digging.
NARRATOR: Johan hopes this tiny llama is a sign of more exciting things to come.
DIAZ: This is a silver male llama which was facing north-east.
NARRATOR: While the male and female statues were found in a crevice above the main platform, the silver llama was unearthed close to the stop where Johan expected to find a mummy. Hopes are high that more digging will reveal the focus of all the offerings, the body of a child. But as the days pass, only Walter's small rock crevice yields more artifacts, seven in all, including a beautiful gold male statue. The ice hole on the main platform is a disappointment. Hours of hacking and pouring hot water reveal nothing but more grass. Time on the mountain is running out. The team has been here for nine days. Supplies are low, and everyone is feeling the effects of the altitude. Desperate to make the most of what little time remains, team members launch small excavations all over the summit. Amazingly, one of them, on the eastern side, pays off.
CHAVEZ: Since yesterday we've had a hunch we'd find something. Jose Luis had already discovered a small offering. So, we started to clean this area and we found the walls of a tomb.
NARRATOR: The pungent stench of decomposing flesh attracts other team members. As Jose scrapes away the gravel, they find themselves staring into the face of a small mummy.
REINHARD: We've smelled it before. That's why I thought there was a mummy here even before they found it. And that means usually it's already decomposed to a degree so what we're getting there are going to be textiles which looks like there's still some textiles left, although damaged and a skeleton, but the nice thing is we'll get the whole complex and we'll get in and situated and we get all different artifacts. You can already see a statue here. There's going to be others when they found the silver statue right here, so there's going to be more stuff that's going to be found in association with it, and that's the kind of things that really make this exciting.
NARRATOR: To Johan, the discovery is proof that the Incas used Sara-Sara for child sacrifice. The complete grave will help the archaeologists paint a clearer picture of this ancient ritual. The mummy was buried in the terraces east of the main platform. Since these face the morning sun, the ground here is not frozen, and the body will most likely be degraded. As the mud is removed, it's clear the whole bundle is wrapped in sac-like textiles.
DIAZ: What we have here is part of the head. The mummy is pointing downwards. These are the feet and part of the body. And possibly above the knee is a small offering which we can see here.
NARRATOR: Even though the caked mud, a glimmer of color is visible, fine stripes on 500 year old Inca cloth.
DIAZ: Here's the hair.
NARRATOR: Just beneath the textiles is a clue to the child's sex.
DIAZ: The shawl pin goes through the cloak. The head is covered by another piece of cloth, but the shawl pin goes underneath that cloth and here it is.
REINHARD: Where he's working right now shows a tupu, a shawl pin, which means that this is a female mummy.
NARRATOR: Another girl who lost her life to the mountain gods. She was found just in time, the team can't afford to stay on the mountain any longer. But Johan is determined to return. He's convinced that Sara Sara harbors many more invaluable finds.
REINHARD: There's been some looting, but there's also a tremendous amount that hasn't been touched and it's very, very exciting really with a lot of different, smaller sites and we still have quite a bit of work ahead of us to get to the bottom of it. We'll give some thought to how to make this a more efficient operation when we come back next year.
NARRATOR: Still partly frozen and caked in the dirt, the mummy is carried down to the village below, where she is nicknamed "Sarita" after the great mountain which claimed her life. Back at the Catholic University in Arequipa, Jose Antonio Chavez leads the team of conservationalists who will care for the mummy. Their first step is to painstakingly thaw, separate, and refreeze several layers of textiles. As the team peels away the coverings, startling discoveries come to light. A large pouch made of feathers hangs down the girl's back. It probably contained the coca leaves. On the mountain, the archaeologists though the tiny body belonged to an eight or nine year old. Now, examination of her teeth show she was actually about fifteen. Unlike some of the other mummies, which were dressed in royal Inca garb, Sarita died wearing very ordinary, everyday clothing. Still, she was clearly a capa cocha sacrifice. X-rays of her skull reveal that, like Juanita, Sarita was killed by a severe blow to the head. Each new discovery is providing more information for anthropologists, as they struggle to untangle the dark mysteries of capa cocha. These were the chosen ones, offered up by their communities to please the emperor and the mountain gods. Laden with offerings, they journeyed to sacred peaks throughout the Inca empire. The children climbed higher than they had ever gone before, to windblown spires of ice and rock. There, where earth and heaven touch, they died.
SPONSOR: Want more on mummies? Relive the Peruvian expedition as it unfolded day-by-day. Find out about mummies from around the world. See what it takes to do archaeology high in the mountains, and more on NOVA's web site.
To order this show for $19.95 plus shipping and handling, call 1-800-949-8670. And to learn more about how science can solve the mysteries of our world, ask about our many other NOVA videos.
NOVA is a production of WGBH Boston. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, dedicated to education and quality television.
And by Iomega, makers of the Zip drive and 100MB Zip Disk. Your universe is expanding, but you can save it in your own personal space. Iomega—because it's your stuff.
This program is funded in part by Northwestern Mutual Life, which has been protecting families and businesses for generations. Have you heard from the quiet company? Northwestern Mutual Life.
And by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and viewers like you.
NOVA: We can tell the story by looking at the way the earliest Christians thought about Jesus.
NARRATOR: On the edge of the millennium, Front Line takes on one of the epochal events of Western civilization.
The story of how the death of one man changed the world. Watch "From Jesus to Christ" on Front Line.
Frozen in Heaven
Narration Written by
Additional producing in Peru
Assistant Sound Editor
Post Production Online Editor
Unit Manager, BBC/Horizon
Executive Editor, BBC/Horizon
NOVA Series Graphics
Post Production Assistant
Post Production Editor
Post Production Supervisor
Senior Science Editor
A BBC/Horizon NOVA/WGBH Co-production
© | Created September 2006
Support provided by
For new content
visit the redesigned