In the Andes foothills sits the ancient Incan village known as Iglesia Colorada. It is tucked in the Atacama desert, one of the driest regions of the world. From the late 1400s to early 1500s the Incan empire expanded its reach through war and conquest. It’s believed the inhabitants of this village resisted their conquerors and for their troubles were killed and their skulls used during the Inca’s Reign of Terror.
The place was far removed from Cuzco, the Inca’s seat of power. The rebellious locals knew how to survive in the harsh environment, giving them an advantage over the Incas, so not only was physical submission imposed on them but psychological as well.
In 2003, four skulls were found in an ancient garbage dump. There were no bodies, jewelry or other adornment found with them. The village had an official cemetery where entire skeletons were unearthed. None of the remains were decapitated. It was a mystery why these four skulls were thrown away in the rubbish heap.
In 2018, two researchers at the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile postulated that these skulls were actually strung up by the Incas as a warning to other villagers. The age of the skulls date back to the time when the Inca were subjugating the area.
The study’s authors, Francisco Garrido and Catalina Morales argue that these skulls which date to the time of Incan expansion, “resorted to violence to terrify villagers into submission”.
All the skulls had holes drilled in them and marks found around the jaw indicate they were flayed. The holes were probably made to string them up on a rope, so they could be exhibited to the village. Based on their bone density all four were malnourished. Three belonged to young women and one to a child. Garrido explained that young males were too valuable as laborers and warriors.
Early colonial missionaries wrote about this practice throughout Mesoamerican and South American cultures. For many years it was believed they exaggerated or purposely lied to in order to vilify the indigenous cultures of these areas, however recently archaeologists such as John Reinhard have begun finding the bodies of these children on mountaintops who have been mummified due to the dryness and cold temperatures were they were left.
The Incan practice of human sacrifice is known as Qhapaq hucha. Their favored victims were children usually between the ages of six to fifteen. They were chosen because of their innocence. Only ones in perfect health and without any blemishes could be presented to the gods. Months before their deaths they were fattened and dressed in fine clothing, before being trekked up the highest mountaintops by priests. They were fed coca leaves to enable them to reach the high summit without expiring. They were then given a drugged drink to allow the priests to strangle them, deliver a blow to the head or leave them to die of exposure without resistance, the regular response to a human being murdered.
Source - LatinAmericanAntiquities
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer