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La Doncella: The Girl Frozen for 500 Years

La Doncella: The Girl Frozen for 500 Years

A series of images circulating online show a perfectly-preserved girl who was said to be frozen for 500 years.

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La Doncella.

Known as La Doncella (“The Maiden”), the Inca mummy was discovered in Argentina in 1999 at the 22,000-foot summit of Mount Llullaillaco. The well-preserved teenage girl is frozen in time in a cross-legged sitting position. The girl did not decompose because she perished in a high altitude area that remained frozen throughout the year.

In a 2007 interview with National Geographic, Johan Reinhard, one of the leaders of the expedition which found the mummy, described it as “the best preserved of any mummy I’ve seen.”

The High Country Archaeological Museum, located in Salta, Argentina, first displayed La Doncella in September 2007.


Two other mummified children were also discovered at the site where La Doncella was found, a 6-year old girl and a 7-year old boy. The bodies still had internal organs intact and blood was present in the hearts and lungs. None of the children were related but they were believed to be of a high social status due to their elongated skulls, which is the result of elaborate head wrappings. The younger girl is sometimes referred to as “Lightning Girl” because her charred remains indicates that she was struck by lightning at some point after death.

National Geographic Video

The video below shows scientists working on La Doncella.

In 2012, researchers announced that The Maiden also suffered from from a bacterial lung infection comparable to tuberculosis at the time of her death.

The children were probably left to freeze to death as part of a religious ritual. In 2013, an article from BBC News reported that large amounts of alcohol and coca leaves (from which cocaine is synthesized) were ingested by the teenage girl in the months leading up to her sacrifice. The article states that a variety historical accounts, “…reveal that these substances were reserved for the elite and often used in Incan rituals.”

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An archaeologist from the University of Bradford, Dr. Emma Brown, attempted to explain the Inca sacrificial worldviews, “The Spanish chroniclers suggest that children were sacrificed for all kinds of reasons: important life milestones in the lives of the Incas, in times of war or natural disasters, but there was a calendar of rituals too.”

La Doncella is displayed in a dimly-lit triple-paned glass cylinder which is climate controlled to replicate the conditions which fostered the mummy through the past 500 years.

Bottom Line

Pictures of a well-preserved female mummy that has been frozen for 500 years are real. The mummy was discovered on an Argentinian mountaintop in 1999. Historical accounts and research reveal that the Inca would sometimes sacrifice children on mountains by allowing them to freeze to death. Being a sacrificial victim was considered to be a great honor reserved only for elite children associated with the Inca.

Updated February, 20 2015
Originally published April 2014

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