As time progresses, more information is uncovered about ancient pre-Colombian civilizations. Thanks to technology, the archeological community can make advancements that reveal what certain ceremonies, buildings and people may have looked like.

In a collaborative effort to further study the Incan civilization, archeologists have been able to reconstruct the face of an Incan girl who had been sacrificed centuries ago, per NBC News.

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Dubbed “Juanita” and the “Inca Ice Maiden” by researchers, the mummified girl was said to have been used in a ritualistic killing over 500 years ago in the Andean mountaintops. According to NBC News, U.S. anthropologist Johan Reinhard found “Juanita” in 1995 at 19,685 feet on Ampato volcano. Since then, Reinhard has been working towards understanding everything he could about her.

Incan children took coca leaves and ayahuasca before their ceremonial deaths

A research article published in 2012 found that children and young women were used for the capacocha rituals done for the huacas (aka their gods). The paper finds that the children came from high-standing families as they were in excellent health at the time of their deaths. The Incans used the children as “political and economic pawns for the Inca king.”

According to PBS, little is known about the capacocha ceremonies. It was said that they were held “during or after a portentous event.” What qualifies as a portentous event? An earthquake, a flood, drought or the death of an Incan emperor.

Despite the lack of information overall, archeologists have some data that can help paint a picture of what had occurred. Big Think detailed that toxicology reports done on the mummified children showed they were drugged. Tests show they were given ayahuasca and coca leaves before their deaths. 


In many historic socieities, it was common practice to perform human sacrifices for religious purposes. During the Inca Empire, a ritual known as Capacocha was performed in order to ensure good harvests and prevent natural disasters. Typically, carefully selected children were sacrificed in this ceremony. Juanita the Ice Maiden was one of many who took part in this ritual, found in a well-preserved state on the top of Mount Ampato in the Andes Mountains. juanitatheicemaiden mummy mummification ancientegypt archaeology archaeologytiktok archaelogical archaelogicalfindings archaelogicalsites ancientmummies historicfindings historylesson historyvideo historic historytok learnontiktok learnsomethingnew morbidcuriosity obscure unusual interestingfacts interesting inca incaempire incamummy culture religion sacrifice sacrifices neat fascinating foryoupage fyp foryou reels reelsinstagram reels__tiktok goviral explorepage explore funeral burial cemetery mountain andesmountains andes funfacts didyouknow checkitout mummysgirl childsacrafice ritual rituals wow unbelievable awesome cool

♬ Suspense, horror, piano and music box – takaya

The purpose? To keep children happy. Big Think quotes Reinhard, saying, “The knowledge of being about to be ritually sacrificed […] likely produced serious anxiety… the active consumption of Banisteriopsis caapi might have helped keep the victims more accepting of their fate.”

Incas performed their most important religious ceremonies atop mountains where their deities dwelled

Reinhard wrote for Penn Museum about how vital the mountains were to the Andean people’s belief system. 

He writes, “Mountain deities figured prominently in indigenous Andean beliefs and, among many traditional communities in the area, they still do.”

“In the lands ruled by the Incas, mountain summits were selected as places for making the most important of all offerings — human sacrifices,” he continued.

The anthropologist credits the barrier to accessing many of these sites as the reason they survived Spanish conquerors and looters. 

Reinhard says that the Incas worshipped the mountains for many reasons. He believes the most important was their meteorological influence. He hypothesizes that the Incas believed the mountains controlled the rain, cloud patterns and more.

Additionally, being so high up and in the cold allowed the mummies to stay intact for much longer.

It took 28 years to create a bust of “Juanita’s” possible Incan facial features

Reinhard worked with Swedish archaeologist and sculptor Oscar Nilsson to help rebuild what “Juanita” may have looked like. The project took over 400 hours to complete.

Several factors were considered to figure out what the Incan girl looked like. Each element used things made available from details found at the site. In addition to constructing a replica of her skull, they also conducted “body scans, DNA studies, ethnological characteristics, age [and] complexion.”

Altogether, “Juanita” was between 13 and 15. Her estimated death was between A.D. 1440 and 1450. Researchers found she would have been about 4.5 feet tall and weighed about 77 pounds. 

Her cause of death? A Johns Hopkins CT scan found that a blow to the head was the most likely cause.

“Now, 28 years later, this has become a reality thanks to Oscar Nilsson’s reconstruction,” Reinhard said per NBC News.