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The Llullaillaco Maiden
Human Mummy
Biographical Information
Name(s) The Maiden aka La Doncella
Age Approximately 15 Years Old
Sex Female
Status Peasant to Royalty
Height Unknown
Culture Incan
Date(s) Over 500 Years Ago
Site Mount Llullaillaco
Current Location
Location Museum of High Altitude Archaeology
Catalog # Unknown

The Maiden, aka La Doncella, was found entombed in a small chamber 1.5 metres underground near the summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina, in a cross-legged posture, showing no signs of distress due to the use of sedatives during the sacrificial ritual. The Maiden is one of the three Children of Llullaillaco. The University of Bradford in the United Kingdom studied her mummy, as well as the other children, to learn more about the life of the Maiden. The studies of the Children of Llullaillaco revealed a lot about the societal structures of Inca and their practices of sacrificial rituals.

La Doncella is now located in the Museum of High Altitude Archaeology in Salta, Argentina.


The Maiden was  victim of ritual sacrifice in the Inca Empire tracing back to around 500 years ago. Such sacrifices were selected as offerings to the sun god, Inti, to the weather (thunder) god, Illapa, or to the creator god, Viracocha, in order to ensure the fertility of the crops and to plead for favorable weather, or in response to natural calamities, such as droughts, epidemics, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Such were usually chosen for their beauty and gifts.  

Children for sacrifices show evidence of a notable diet change, evidence for which is seen in the children's hair. The relatively good state of nutrition that the Llullaillaco children, as reflected in the thick layer of fatty tissue appearing in CT-scans, as well as the absence of Harris lines in the X-rays, serve as indicators of the high social rank of these victims

The mummies also had evidence of drug and alcohol consumption which the Incans most likely used to make them more compliant.


The frozen Children of Llullaillaco are considered some of the best preserved mummies known today; all organs were intact, skin, hair, and even soft tissue remain. The Maiden had a coca quid in between her teeth showing signs that she was heavily sedated when she died. This may explain that she had no signs of distress during her death. The Maiden was prepared with beautiful clothes, a feathered headdress, elaborately braided hair, and a number of artifacts placed on the cloth that was draped over her knees.

The official cause of death is still considered unknown, but archaeologists hypothesized hypothermia or asphyxia as contributing factors since no signs of violence was shown on her mummy.   


The frozen bodies of three Inca children were discovered by Johan Reinhard and the author of this paper on the summit of mount Llullaillaco, at an elevation of 6715 m, at the world's highest archaeological site. They are considered to be among the best preserved PreColumbian mummies known to date.

Studies included radiological evaluations by conventional X-rays, and CT scans, which provided information about condition and pathology of the bones and internal organs; as well as dental studies oriented to the estimation of the ages of the three children at the time of death.

Her braided hair has been analyzed and chemical traces in the hair differ from root to tip. The results show the Maiden experienced important dietary changes in her final two years.


Analysis in 2012 concluded that the Maiden of Llullaillaco was infected by a virus that has been long extinct. Due to the preservation of her body, the lung disease similar to tuberculosis stayed with her and is now being used to discover more about the diseases of the past and of that particular region.


Her body was placed in the tomb facing northeast and was covered with two brown mantles. A feathered headdress was placed on her head and an high quality cumbi tunic on her shoulder. Her hair was done in numerous intricately woven braids. Also was included textile bags and belts, gold and silver figurines, and various ceramic items. Several other offerings included shell statuettes, and seashell figurines representing llamas.

External Links


Castro, J. (2013, July 29). Final moments of Incan child mummies' lives revealed. Retrieved from

Morelle, R. (2013, July 30). Inca mummies: child sacrifice victims fed drugs and alcohol. Retrieved from

Ponic, J. (2017, August 4). World's best preserved mummies. Retrieved from