Stable isotope and DNA evidence for ritual sequences in Inca child sacrifice

Andrew S. Wilson, Timothy Taylor, Maria Constanza Ceruti, Jose Antonio Chavez, Johan Reinhard, Vaughan Grimes, Wolfram Meier-Augenstein, Larry Cartmell, Ben Stern, Michael P. Richards, Michael Worobey, Ian Barnes, M. Thomas P. Gilbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Four recently discovered frozen child mummies from two of the highest peaks in the south central Andes now yield tantalizing evidence of the preparatory stages leading to Inca ritual killing as represented by the unique capacocha rite. Our interdisciplinary study examined hair from the mummies to obtain detailed genetic and diachronic isotopic information. This approach has allowed us to reconstruct aspects of individual identity and diet, make inferences concerning social background, and gain insight on the hitherto unknown processes by which victims were selected, elevated in social status, prepared for a high-altitude pilgrimage, and killed. Such direct information amplifies, yet also partly contrasts with, Spanish historical accounts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16456-16461
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number42
StatePublished - Oct 16 2007


  • Ancient DNA
  • Bioarchaeology
  • Ice mummies
  • South America
  • Stable light isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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