The mystery of the unidentified mummy can be taken out of the cold case file and reclassified as "solved" -- thanks to the work of German scientists, who recently determined the age, origin and cause of death of a naturally mummified young woman who languished for decades in a
New research shows the mummy, recently rediscovered in museum archives, is more than 500 years old, hails from the ancient Incan Empire of
Scientists surmise that her murder was ritual sacrifice. The Incans regularly executed young women to appease the sun gods.
"We assumed she died in a ritual killing but we have no clear evidence from written sources," Professor
CT scans, injury reconstructions and DNA evidence helped the researchers piece together evidence of the young woman's early demise, as well as her place of origin. Until now, it was assumed the young woman was German -- one of the many well-preserved bodies recovered from
But the mummy's deformed skull is evidence of Incan head flattening practices, and DNA evidence indicated a diet of fish and corn, staples of the New World. The mummy's braided pigtails also featured llama hair, more evidence of her Incan past.
The young woman was not purposefully mummified, but was well preserved by her resting place in the arid climate and salty sands of the desert -- most likely northern
The mysterious mummy made its way to
Analysis by the German researchers also determined that the woman suffered from Chagas disease, a parasite common among poorer villagers who lived in modest mud huts. She would have had difficulty breathing and digesting food.
"She might have been chosen as a victim for a ritual murder, because she was so ill and it might have been clear that she might have lived only for a relatively short period," Nerlich told
Not everyone's convinced the woman was sacrificed.
"This individual is older than the usual profile of ritually killed females, who are typically around the age of 13 or 14," Brown told the
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