For the Incas, coca and alcohol served simultaneously as keys to the sacred and tools of coercion and control, National Geographic fascinatingly reports:
The bodies of 13-year-old Llullaillaco Maiden and her younger companions Llullaillaco Boy and Lightning Girl (three Inca mummies found near the lofty summit of Volcán Llullaillaco in Argentina) have revealed that mind-altering substances played a part in their deaths and during the year-long series of ceremonial processes that prepared them for their final hours.
Under biochemical analysis, the Maiden’s hair yielded a record of what she ate and drank during the last two years of her life. This evidence seems to support historical accounts of a few selected children taking part in a year of sacred ceremonies—marked in their hair by changes in food, coca, and alcohol consumption—that would ultimately lead to their sacrifice.
Her surging consumption of both coca and alcohol, which were then controlled substances not available for everyday use, show she appears to have been selected for sacrifice a year before her actual death: “We suspect the Maiden was one of the acllas, or chosen women, selected around the time of puberty to live away from her familiar society under the guidance of priestesses.”
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