How to face an expedition to Aconcagua

As a preliminary step, we judged it convenient to carry out an act in which the expedition’s results were publicly reported, from the University’s headquarters, with the presentation of the materials found. This was carried out in the Rector’s Office of the National University of Cuyo on February 12, with the presence of its authorities. Thus, the fact that the University, (through the Institute of Archeology that had carried out the respective work), became the custodian and owner of those elements that from that moment became part of the Cultural Heritage of the University was legally sanctioned. Nation. There, the intention was announced to exhibit some day the set of materials from the Aconcagua burial in a specially equipped “Inca Room” in the Archaeological Museum of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters. (Despite having an excellent project designed by the architects of the University, this purpose has not yet materialized). The initial laboratory work -and the most delicate- was to separate How to Climb Aconcagua

the elements that made up the funerary bundle. For this, we carried out preliminary work with the help of Chilean specialists who visited us at the end of March, led by the anthropologist Silvia Quevedo. For various reasons, it was necessary to wait more than a year for the completion of this delicate task, until, with the invaluable collaboration of Julie Palma and Luis Solar, from the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art (endowed with an important textile laboratory), the operation It was carried out during six tense days in May 1986. The various wrappings (a total of 25 large and small textile pieces) were removed with great care and precision, beginning with the crimped mantle of feathers and the plume that had remained seen in preliminary work. The advice on the medical-biological aspect was directed by Dr. Carlos de Cicco, professor at the Faculty of Medical Sciences and deputy director of the Medical-Legal Corps of Mendoza. In addition to abundant photographic documentation, a large part of the operation was filmed on video by the independent producer Alberto Marchesini, whose materials were used to make a television program of about 45 minutes that caused quite an impact on the public in various Argentine cities. Although deformed by strong lateral compression, the child’s body appeared well preserved. He was dressed in two “uncu” (tunic or “Andean shirt”, lacking sleeves) made of wool; He was wearing flip-flops made of wool and hair with vegetable fiber soles, and around his neck, he kept a necklace made up of multi-colored stone beads. Above it was a number of other textile pieces (cloaks, sashes, loincloths, cords, etc.). Some of the cloaks are made of cotton. They have a geometric decoration and stylized birds in the brocade technique, Mount Aconcagua

which corresponds to a tradition of the Peruvian central coast and that had never been found in other high-altitude sites. One of the blankets had been knotted at one of its ends, and inside it was found a very thin gold plate rolled up. The symbolism of this escapes us. The researcher J. Roberto Barcena has detected the presence of a reddish pigment in the body, probably obtained from the seeds of a tree that grows in the eastern forests of the Andes, called “bixa” or “achiote”. This practice, undoubtedly related to red as a symbol of life, has not been observed in other high-altitude mummies (except for the child from Cerro El Plomo in Chile, which shows traces of facial paint). To enable organic studies, an autopsy was performed (on the advice of the paleopathologist Dr. Enrique Gerszten), which Cerro Aconcagua was performed by Dr. De Cicco in August 1986. One of the results was to verify that the child had ingested a liquid as his last meal. reddish, also probably obtained from achiote (Barcena, 1989). Other researchers have carried out medical studies (in relation to the cause of death), histological, microbiological, genetic, etc., as well as environmental studies about the site: geological, paleo-climatic and pollen studies. In addition to body X-rays, a computed tomography test has been carried out under the direction of Dr. Juan Carlos Cruz. A maxillo-odontological study by Dr. Mario Guinazu has made it possible to set the age of the individual at 7 years (plus-minus 9 months). The weight of the mummy in May 1986 was 11 kg with 200 grams, slightly more than 1/ 3 of the estimated Aconcagua Ascents

original weight, product of a partial desiccation. The preservation of the body has been satisfactory. It remains stored in a freezer at an average temperature of about 10 degrees below zero. For various reasons, we have decided not to exhibit it publicly in the projected Sala Incaica of the university museum. It will remain in its refrigerated chamber, subject to the least number of manipulations possible, to be seen only by specialists and reserved for future studies. Instead, a replica will be exhibited, on which part of the clothing, the necklace and the sandals will be placed. In other showcases will go the other textiles and the accompanying trousseau.