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Ice Maiden : Inca Mummies, Mountain Gods, and Sacred Sites in the Andes
When Johan Reinhard found the Inca Ice Maiden in 1995, news of his discovery reached more than a billion people. Within months of the finding, the mummy was the subject of television documentaries, front-page newspaper stories, and magazine features. Now National Geographic is proud to present the firsthand account from the discoverer himself. The Ice Maiden is a fascinating chronicle of discoveries that made headlines around the world and continue to make further scientific progress possible. Combining the adventure of the modern-day Andes with the mysteries of cultures past, Reinhard's narrative is a mesmerizing, one-of-a-kind account of two of the most pivotal events in the history of science.
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June 19, 2006
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Excerpt from Ice Maiden by Einhard
Every beginning ends something. -PAUL VALERY
There is a snow mountain called Ampato?which has its own order of people dedicated to its service. -CRISTOBAL DE ALBORNOZ, 1583
THE ERUPTING VOLCANO OF SABANCAYA SPEWED OUT CLOUDS OF ash more than a mile into the sky, blanketing even its higher neighbor, Ampato. Eventually the weight of melting snow caused a section of Ampato's steep summit ridge to collapse. As it swept down the slope, the mix of ice and rock carried with it an ancient cloth-wrapped bundle. Smashing against an icy outcrop 50 yards below, an outer cloth was torn open and 500-year-old Inca artifacts were strewn over the rugged landscape. But the most important part of the bundle remained intact as it came to rest on top of the ice-the frozen body of an Inca child. With its exposure, a race against time began.
I knew nothing of this, but by chance I was to become involved in the rescue of the mummy that came to be called the Ice Maiden. Her discovery made headlines in the world press that eventually reached almost a billion people. Few finds have cut across so many cultural and age boundaries, fascinating young and old alike in countries across the globe. The small frozen mummy of an Inca girl captured the interest of men and women from all walks of life, ranging from taxi drivers to world leaders.
I had spent the previous 15 years as an archaeologist in the Andes, climbing more than a hundred mountains. A new field had developed called "high-altitude archaeology," and its focus was naturally on the Inca culture of 500 years ago-it was the only society known to make offerings on the summits of peaks more than 20,000 feet high. In 1995 much work still remained to be done before we would know the location of all the sites they had built, let alone understand why they made these sacrifices on top of some of the world's highest mountains.
Ironically, when I landed in the Peruvian city of Arequipa late in August of that year, I thought my research had ended for the summer. I would soon head back to the United States after completing a series of expeditions. Discoveries of Inca ruins in eastern Peru had been followed by more in Bolivia-it had been one of my best field seasons ever. I expected that my stay in Arequipa would be an anticlimax.