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Juanita, the Inca mummy that you can visit in Arequipa

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Juanita, the Inca mummy that you can visit in Arequipa

Also known as "Juanita: the ice girl" or the "Lady of Ampato", Juanita is a human mummy that belongs to the Inca culture. Her discovery amazed the world due to the good state of preservation in which she was found. She was found in 1995 by the American archaeologist Johan Reinhard and the Peruvian mountaineer Miguel Zárate in the area of snow-capped volcanoes in the southern part of Peru, in the snow-capped Ampato, Andes Mountains.


The Juanita mummy was preserved intact, with all its organs, since it did not undergo the mummification process in which viscera and other internal parts of the body are extracted to be later embalmed. The glacial freezing made a natural mummification.


As part of a research project, on September 2, 1995, an expedition to the Ampato volcano was organized, led by Reinhard and Zárate. This expedition was the one that found the mummy Juanita buried along with different types of jewelry, food and ceramic objects. Likewise, several gold and mother-of-pearl spondyllus statuettes, 19 types of plants, among which corn and various legumes stood out, as well as charqui (boned llama meat) were found in its surroundings.


According to investigations, the "Lady of Ampato" would have lived in the Inca Empire, and would have been sacrificed for being a young woman in the service of the Inca and the Sun God, that is, a person who did not own her life. Among the reasons for her sacrifice, there is a theory that it was to ask Wiracocha to stop the activity of the volcanoes that were active in the region.


Characteristics of the mummy Juanita

Scientists from the laboratories of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, in Maryland, United States, studied the Juanita mummy by performing tomographies and subjecting it to three-dimensional X-rays, which allowed them to reach important conclusions. Among them: Juanita died between the ages of 13 and 14, approximately between the years 1,440 and 1,450 AD. C., she was around 1.50 meters tall, had been slender and beautiful with perfect teeth and strong bones; likewise, she had a good diet with a balanced diet and had not suffered from any disease. Her death would have been caused by a blow to the head, probably with a baton.


Current location

To date, the "Lady of Ampato" is in the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa María de Arequipa. She is kept in a special freezer, protected from the environment by a vacuum-sealed glass chamber. The urn is secured with steel profiles and has two layers of Plexiglas inside. The interior of the urn is at a temperature of -19ºC, to avoid dehydration of the corpse.


History of the Mummy Juanita

Juanita was a virgin maiden from the Inca period. In the fifteenth century, when she was between 12 and 15 years old, she was chosen along with other young women from the region for what was then considered a privilege: to be sacrificed as thanks to Pachamama or Mother Earth.


According to experts, Juanita was killed during an Inca sacrifice known as Capacocha, carried out on the Ampato volcano, more than 6,300 meters above sea level. This ritual was carried out to calm the Pachamama, avoid natural catastrophes and guarantee a good harvest.


Juanita remained on top of Ampato for many years, until a nearby volcano, Sabancaya, erupted and its ashes melted the snow on the surrounding mountains. After this phenomenon, Juanita surfaced again to be discovered in 1995 by the American archaeologist Johan Reinhard and his assistant, Miguel Zárate.


Until the appearance of Juanita, there was no proof that the Incas also sacrificed women in their rituals, so this mummy also became an element to complete the history of our country.


Since her discovery, Juanita's studies have not stopped and many things have been found out about her: that she died of a blow to the head, that she changed her diet a year before she was sacrificed and many other details that you will be able to find out when she is visit.


As a curiosity, we want to clarify that although it is known worldwide as the Juanita Mummy, in reality the Incas never carried out a mummification process, but the body managed to remain in good condition until its discovery thanks to the low temperatures of Ampato.


Currently, to continue with its correct conservation, Juanita is exposed to the public in a double transparent urn and a constant temperature of 19 ºC.


Where to visit the Juanita Mummy?

The Juanita Mummy is the jewel of the Andean Sanctuaries Museum, located in the heart of Arequipa, half a block from the Plaza de Armas. If you are visiting the White City, you have no excuse not to go see it!

Hours: Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. to 6:00 p.m. m., Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. m. to 3:00 p.m. m.


Price: S/ 20 (US$ 6) general admission; S/ 10 (US$ 3) students, school children and children from five years old; seniors, free.


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