Human Sacrifice In The Incan Moche And Wari Cultures Essay

Length: 7 pages Sources: 7 Subject: Literature - Latin-American Type: Essay Paper: #57315941 Related Topics: Human Culture, Glory Road, Cardinal Health, Human Development
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Human Sacrifice in the Incan, Moche, And Wari Cultures

Peru's first known cultures date back to over 20,000 years ago, and have left strong marks on the country. One of the most important known groups is the Chavin civilization, one of the earliest in Peru, and also the first building culture. After the decline of the Chavin culture, several regional cultures emerged. The most famous are the Paracas and Nazca civilizations, whose legacy includes the mysterious Nazca Lines, among the highlights of Peru. Both of these civilizations are remembered for their great artistic and technological skills.

Farther north, the Moche people flourished over a relatively long period between 100 B.C and 850 A.D. Although they only gained control of a small portion of Peru, the Moche people's mastery of architectural and artistic techniques has made them one of the most influential cultures in the history of Peru. It is still possible to observe their tremendous cultural contribution outside the modern day city of Trujillo. The adobe brick temple Hua Moche Culture approx. 100 -- 800 AD. The Moche culture at the north coast of Peru was named after the valley of a river that was the centre of this culture together with the Viru and the Chicama valley. At that point in time of their hugest expansion, the influence of the Moche culture extended in a coastal strip of a length of approx. 250 kilometres, in the north over the Leche valley to the Nepena valley in the south. At that time, the population grew enormously and within these valleys, people formed an united political organization. The extension and the control of the vital irrigation plant were fundamentally for the political power. A tight integration existed between religious performances and political power as well (Thousand Years Inka Gold, 2011, p. 2).

Wari Culture: approx. 500 -- 1100 A.D. The empire of the Wari was created around the year 600 and extended over 1,500 kilometres in the territory of today's Peru in the period of its glory. Huge changes in social, political and religious life were combined with the distribution of the Wari culture, which was reflected in changing settlement structures, new forms of architecture, widening of infrastructure and new burial rituals. Centuries later, a great number of reforms were taken over from the Wari by the Incas for their empire (Thousand Years Inka Gold, 2011, p. 1).

Inca Culture: 1438 -- 1532 A.D. Only for almost 90 years, an own Inca culture has existed as a kind of union of many people being independent until then. The high effectiveness of the Inca rulers and, therefore, their historical meaning was based on their ability to govern many different cultures and to allow them to retain their culture apart from some exceptions. The rulers also had the ability to organize an economically solid supply empire (Thousand Years Inka Gold, 2011, p. 2). When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in South America, the Inca commanded the largest, richest, and most isolated empire of native America. Centuries before the growth of the Inca state, however, the ancient peoples of the Andes had already created an extraordinarily rich and diverse heritage of cultures, and established many of the traditions that give the Andean region its unique character today (Goldstein, 2003, p. 1).

Descriptions of human sacrifice by the Inca and other native peoples of Andean South America are scattered by many of the early colonial-period Spanish colonial chronicles and histories. These are not eye-witness accounts, but are generally secondhand descriptions by native informants. Unlike informants from Mexico, were human sacrifice was witnessed by Spanish soldiers and priests by the early sixteenth century, written accounts from Peru generally describe religious practices prior to the conquest of the Inca empire (Benson & Gwynn Cook, 2001, p. 165).

All evidence confirms the idea that hat human sacrifice was a central part of Moche religious belief. The now well-known "Warrior Narrative" and "Sacrifice Scene" provide key entry points into the lexicon of Moche visual vocabulary because of the extent to which their characters are correlative to the archeologically known figures. These scenes indicate that leadership involved the procurement of prisoners for ritual sacrifice (Jackson, 2008, p. 17).

Human or animal sacrifices were practiced by the Incas and by previous Andean indigenous cultures only on important occasions.


For example, a fire would be made and corn tossed over the fire, with prayers that would encourage Inti, the sun god, to eat the offering and to acknowledge the Incas as children of Inti.

The Incas had also developed an elaborate calendar based on nature's cyclical patterns and the observation of stars. It is said that the calendar aided in predicting weather and was therefore was helpful to crop cultivation. On the first day of every lunar month, 100 llamas were driven into Huayaca Pata, the square in Cuzco. The procession of animals were shown the images of nature gods, and then were assigned to 30 priests, each representing a day of the month. The llamas were then killed, their flesh thrown into the fire and the bones ground for other rituals. At these events, people would offer woven garments to the fire. It is said that the Inca ruler wore his poncho only once: it was sacrificed to the sun god each day (Raggio, 2003, p. 1).

"Beautiful beyond belief" is how one Spanish chronicler described Tanta Carhua. Carhua was a ten-year-old girl whose father had offered to the Inca ruler as a "Capacocha" or "Capac Hucha" sacrifice. She was led to Cuzco by priests where she met the Inca Emperor, and on the way to the mountain where she would be killed, her entourage -- which consisted of a procession of priests, witnesses to the sacrifice, porters for carrying the food, and llamas-- passed her home town. According to the story, Tanta Carhua told the villagers: "You can finish with me now because I could not be more honored than by the feasts which they celebrated for me in Cuzco." Before she was killed, the girl was fed and given chicha to drug her and then was buried alive. She thus became a goddess, and the mountain was named after her.

"Juanita" or the "Ice Maiden" is another example of a sacrificial girl, found in 1995 by Johan Reinhard at the top of Ampato, a peak situated north of Cuzco, the Inca capital. Reinhard has mentioned that Juanita has a skull fracture on the back of her head. It is still debated whether these children were sacrificed violently. Reinhard believes that these victims were knocked out with a blow against a towel held at the back of their heads. Thus they would be unconscious when they were buried and would not suffer the pain of the cold and harsh elements as much as if they were fully conscious. These children were apparently feasted and dressed to the hilt for the occasion.

Another mummy discovered by Johan Reinhard's expedition, Sarita, was found to be wrapped not only in fine clothes, but with an outer garment generally worn by males. This finding has been interpreted as the child carrying the dress for her future husband in the world-to-come. It could well be that the garment was offered by the male officiating priest or that it was given to her by her father as protection for her trip in the other world.

Juanita was very well preserved because she was an "ice mummy." Most of her hair, her skin, and her stomach remained intact as well as her sumptuous clothing. DNA studies were conducted to track her ethnicity and the contents of her stomach were sampled to learn more about the Inca diet.

Other young girls who were sacrificed included the "Chosen Women" or the "Virgins of the Sun." These were beautiful young girls, between 8 and 10 years old, chosen by the Inca officials throughout the vast empire. They were taken into a temple, for example in Machu Picchu, (were several corpses of young women were found), and were forbidden to leave for six to seven years. Their duties included keeping a fire always burning (does this remind us of the vestal priestesses of Rome?), making weavings used for ceremonial rituals. Although they were considered to be virgins, they were available for the pleasure of the Inca ruler or his nobles. At the end of their stay at the temple, they were released, turned into concubines, or married into nobility. These young women were sometimes chosen as sacrificial victims. It is said that some of the Virgins of the Sun in the Cuzco temple of Coricancha were killed along with llamas, their blood painted on the Inca nobles by the leading Inca ruler.

There also exist the remains of a sacrificial male boy found in Chile's El Plomo peak. His hair is elaborately braided, and miniature gold figurines were buried with him. He is in a fetal position, possibly…

Sources Used in Documents:


Benson, E.P. & Gwynn Cook, A. 2001. Ritual sacrifice in ancient Peru. 211 pages. University of Texas Press. Accessed 29 November 2011.


Goldstein, P. Archaeology of Peru. Spring 2003. Accessed 29 November 2011.

Cite this Document:

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