Study explores how Inca kids were drugged for sacrifice

  • April 29, 2014
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Study explores how Inca kids were drugged for sacrifice


Chil­dren of the an­cient In­ca Em­pire were fed in­ten­si­fying doses of al­co­hol and co­ca leaf for as long as a year be­fore their slaugh­ter in a bru­tal sac­ri­fice rit­u­al, sci­en­tists re­port.

Both drugs may have been used for their “psy­cho­logic­ally dead­en­ing, dis­ori­ent­ing, and mood-modifying ef­fects” and to en­sure co­op­er­a­tive­ness, wrote the re­search­ers. Their pa­pe­r appeared on the on­line is­sue of the jour­nal Pro­ceed­ings of the Na­tio­n­al Aca­de­my of Sci­en­ces.

More­o­ver, “co­ca and al­co­hol were sub­stances that in­duced al­tered states in­ter­preted as sa­cred, and which could sug­gest to vic­tims and those as­so­ci­at­ed with them the proxim­ity of the di­vine be­ings” whom the sac­ri­fices were meant to ap­pease, they added.

Co­ca, a plant from which the drug co­caine is de­rived, was in wide­spread use in the In­ca Em­pire, which lasted from about the 12th to the 16th cen­turies A.D. and was based in modern-day Pe­ru.

More than a dec­ade ago, ar­chae­o­lo­gists un­earthed three in­di­vid­ually en­tombed mum­mies pe­rched atop Llul­lail­laco, a 6,739 me­ter (7,370 yard) high An­de­an vol­ca­no in north­west Ar­gen­ti­na. Long be­lieved to be sac­ri­ficed dur­ing cer­e­mo­ni­al In­ca rites called ca­pa­cocha, the 13-year-old girl, and 4-5-year-old boy and girl were re­markably well-pre­served and have since been ex­ten­sively stud­ied.

An­drew Wil­son of the Uni­vers­ity of Brad­ford, U.K., tracked the chil­dren's con­sump­tion of co­ca leaves and an al­co­holic bev­er­age called chi­cha by check­ing the lev­els of co­ca and chi­cha chem­i­cal break­down prod­ucts in the mum­mies' hair. This pro­cess is not un­like stu­dy­ing tree rings. Hair clos­er to the root is more re­cently grown and thus tends to con­tain chem­i­cals re­flect­ing the most re­cent di­e­tary habits.

For the “maid­en,” the re­search­ers were able to trace di­et over the 21 months be­fore death. It ap­pears she con­sumed more co­ca and chi­cha than the two oth­er chil­dren, they found. The da­ta in­di­cate an ir­reg­u­lar but strong, overall, in­crease in in­take of both sub­stances over the year be­fore death, Wil­son and col­leagues found. Al­co­hol use in par­tic­u­lar spiked sharply just be­fore death.

The maid­en was con­sum­ing co­ca right un­til the end, with a chewed-up bun­dle of co­ca leaves still be­tween her teeth, the sci­en­tists not­ed.

The consumption patterns may re­flect “an in­ten­tion­al and pre­cise sched­ule of events,” Wil­son and col­leagues wrote. The young­er chil­dren had much shorter hair than the maid­en and thus their da­ta went back only about a third as far-the re­search­ers as­sumed hair growth of 1 cm (0.4 inches) per month.

The ca­pa­cocha rit­u­al, held in hon­or of im­por­tant impe­rial events, un­folded with the In­ca send­ing a de­mand for trib­ute out to the provinces, in­clud­ing for phys­ic­ally pe­rfect 4-to-16-year-old chil­dren. These would be sac­ri­ficed amid much cer­e­mo­ny and feast­ing in their hon­or. Death might oc­cur by suf­foca­t­ion, a head b­low or bur­i­al alive; in any case, the vic­tims would be left bur­ied in an elab­o­rate moun­tain­top gra­ve.

The rit­u­al would in­evitably have cre­at­ed a “cli­mate of fear” among sub­ject peo­ples of the In­ca Em­pire, Wil­son and col­leagues wrote, al­though elab­o­rate pre­tenses typ­ic­ally masked this fear.

“This is im­plic­it in com­ments made by the Span­ish Jes­u­it mis­sion­ary and writ­er Bern­abé Cobo (1653) in rela­t­ion to par­ents com­pelled to give up their chil­dren,” they added. Cobo wrote that “‘it was a ma­jor of­fense to show any sad­ness,' and that ‘they were obliged to do it with ges­tures of hap­pi­ness and sat­is­fac­tion, as if they were tak­ing their chil­dren to be­stow up­on them a ver­y im­por­tant re­ward.'”

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Source : http://www.world-science.net


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