Today we went to see Juanita at the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa. She is the frozen girl Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zárate found in 1995. They were hiking up Mount Ampato when they saw some kind of sack. When they opened it, they found a girl. At the time, they had no idea they had found a 500-year old girl from the Incas of Tawantinsuyu. Believe it or not, I found out about Juanita as I was surfing my social networking site. I was looking for a girl named Juanita, who I met the last time I was in Peru, and the frozen Juanita came up.

Some people call her a mummy, but that’s not accurate. When I think of mummies, I think of the wraps the Egyptians put around their dead royalty. But Juanita was naturally preserved by the cold in the altitude in which she lived and died. The question then is how did Juanita die? Of course no one will ever really know, but some experts say she was a gift to the god of the mountain as part of a ritual or ceremony called capacocha.

juanitas_frozen_hand

One of the coolest things about her discovery is that because she was found in this age of technology, scientists were able to find out a lot about Juanita, even down to what she ate before she died. It is believed she ate a vegetarian diet, she weighed about ninety pounds, and she was in perfect health.

At the museum, I waited for some space to clear before I went up to Juanita. She was smaller than I expected. Her face showed signs of youth and beauty. I couldn’t really see the details in her clothing, but the sign said she was found in traditional burial clothing that included an alpaca wrap held together with a silver clip. They said this was the dress of nobles. So was she of noble blood or was she dressed this way because she was a special gift to the god of the mountain?

inca-mummy

While everyone took a glance at Juanita and kept moving, I tried to study her face. I couldn’t make out a facial expression. She didn’t look sad, she didn’t look scared; she just looked peaceful. Millions of people look at her every year, but I hope she’s resting in peace. RIP, Juanita.

Activities:

  1. Who is Juanita?
  2. Would you like to visit Juanita at the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries in Arequipa? Why? Why not?
  3. Find Arequipa in Google maps https://www.google.com. Describe where the town is located, and how you think the geography affects the lifestyle there.