If you are visiting the north of Argentina, the beautiful town of Salta should be on your list. Along with its animated night life and beautiful surroundings, the city is also home to the museo de Arqueologica de Alta Montaña, that may worth the trip to Salta itself. This really interesting yet creepy museum conserves a singular collection: the mummies of 3 inca kids.
A macabre ritual dedicated to mother earth
In 1999 an expedition of archeologists-alpinists discovered the frozen bodies of 3 kids aged of 5, 6, and 15 years old on the Volcano Llullaillaco (at the border with Chile), at 6700m in the highest sanctuary in the world. In almost perfect condition, this discovery brought light to one of the most important rituals of the inca civilization.
Picked from different parts of the empire among the noble class, the kids were married in big ceremony in Cusco. Processions and celebrations went on for several days in the capital before continuing in the kids´ home provinces. Finally, the ultimate parade will lead to the place of the sacrifice. A high summit in the mountains, where they will be burried unconscious -drugged- but alive with a miniature representation of the world surrounding them, in gold and silver.
The ritual may disgust you by its crualty or remind you of The Hunger Games, but the Incas considered these sacrifices as a way of communicating with mother earth and the mountain gods in order to bring prosperity over the empire.
As if the sacred mountain didn´t reveal all its secrets yet, it seems like all members of the expedition which discovered the mummies died in mysterious circomstances…
Would you dare to look at it?
For conservation reasons, only one mummy is presented to the public in the museum. The others are protected from heat and light, and are only examined under strict conditions that reminds of a morgue with its aluminum tables and decompression chambers. The museum leaves to the visitor the choice to see the mummy or not by keeping it behind a dark window that you can light up at your convenience. But if you came all the way, isn’t it to see it?
I would personally not call them “mummies” as the bodies are not covered with bandages nor have they been prepared in any way. They are like frozen dead bodies. Conserved for 5 centuries, the state of the bodies is stunning: teeth, skin and hair look so real- they are real! You almost feel like she will open her eyes anytime.
Make it happen – the museum de Arqueologica de Alta Montaña, Salta
- In the center of Salta, on the Plaza 9 Julio. Open everyday from 11.00 am, closed on Mondays
- Entrance fee: AR$ 40