Archeologists have recreated the possible face of Peru’s famous mummy — a teenage girl believed to have been sacrificed in an Inca ritual to the gods more than 500 years ago in the Andes.
Since her discovery in 1995 near the summit of the Ampato volcano, the girl has come to be known by several nicknames including The Lady of Ampato, The Inca Ice Maiden — because of the frozen conditions atop the mountain that allowed her body to remain preserved for hundreds of years — and simply, Juanita.
Johan Reinhard, a US anthropologist, and his climbing partner Miguel Zarate stumbled upon Juanita more than 20,000 feet atop the towering volcano located in the Andes of southern Peru during an expedition nearly three decades ago.
“”I never thought that I would know how her face appeared when she lived,” Reinhard said to The Associated Press.
But on Tuesday, researchers unveiled the recreation of Juanita’s head and torso alongside three-dimensional scans of her mummy in a ceremony at the Andean Sanctuaries Museum of the Catholic University of Santa Maria in Arequipa.
A group of Polish and Peruvian researchers worked together with a Swedish artist who has experience in reconstructing ancient faces, to produce the restoration.
Oscar Nilsson, the Swedish archeologist and sculptor, told The AP he spent about 400 hours of work on modeling Juanita’s face.
Dagmara Socha, a Polish bioarchaeologist at the University of Warsaw’s Center for Andean Studies told the outlet that researchers first had to obtain a replica of Juanita’s skull. Next, researchers working on the project completed body scans on her mummified body, conducted DNA studies, and compiled her ethnological characteristics, including age and complexion, the outlet reported, citing a statement from the university.
Anthropological studies put Juanita’s likely age between 13 and 15 years old when she died sometime between 1440 and 1450 AD.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University performed a CT scan and determined she was most likely killed by a significant blow to the back of her head, The AP reported.
Experts believe Juanita may have been drugged and forced to kneel before the final blow, according to The BBC. Such human sacrifices in the Inca culture were believed to bring honor to the child’s parents and grant the victim an afterlife of bliss, Reinhard wrote in the Penn Museum’s Expedition Magazine in 2016.
Juanita was discovered wrapped in a ceremonial tunic and wearing a headpiece, surrounded by several ceramic objects, including bowls and figurines, The BBC reported.
“These findings have helped us better understand her life and the Inca culture,” Reinhard said. “Now we can see what she really looked like, which makes her even more alive.”
Reinhard, who has discovered several Inca human sacrifices in the Andes, told The AP that scientists have been looking into what Juanita’s life was like, including her diet.
The silicon bust reconstruction depicts Juanita’s mouth slightly open, her jet-black hair and piercing eyes. She also has a tan complexion.