The Maiden, is the mummy of a teenage girl who died more than 500 years ago in a Incan ritual sacrifice in the Andes Mountains.
The girl and two other children were left on a mountaintop to succumb to the cold as offerings to the gods, according to the archaeologists who found the mummified remains in Argentina in 1999.
She was found dressed in a ceremonial tunic and adorned with a headpiece, tokens of her new status as a messenger to the heavens. The girl had also drunk corn liquor, likely to put her to sleep, scientists say, and her mouth still held fragments of coca leaves, which the Inca chewed to lessen the effects of altitude sickness.
As per the religious custom, commonly known as Capacocha, young individuals from Cuzco, the capital city of the Incan Empire, were chosen as gifts for the Sun God Inti.
Little girls and boys, probably the best among the lot, in terms of looks, statuses and health were handpicked, well-fed and taken good care of, weeks or even years before it was time for them to ascend the volcano hundreds of kilometers away, where superior priests made the supreme sacrifice.
As the chosen day drew closer, the children, as young as six years of age and a maximum of 16, were dressed in their best attires, adorned in fine jewellery and along with a hundred other offerings like gold, silver and various miscellaneous items, left near the summit of the titular volcano to be sacrificed. This ritual was undertaken during ceremonies like the passing away of the emperor or with a purpose to curb natural calamities or even please the gods.
As per Incan beliefs, it was an act of great honour to be chosen for the sacrifice, where after the children died; they would join their ancestors in the afterlife and look over the village as angels, keeping their kin from harm. Surprisingly, the sacrifices were ordered by the Emperor himself. Before the children began their journey towards their extreme end, they were presented before the monarch, who held a feast in their honour, as the chosen ones would be given up to the gods.