Capacocha Ceremony: Selection of children-Capacocha at Cuzco

Sacrifice at the wak'akuna , Non-human sacrifice and offerings

Aug 26, 2021 - 09:08

Selection of children for Capacocha Ceremony

Children selected for sacrifice in capacocha ceremonies were of both sexes. No region was exempt from the recruitment of these child sacrifices; they could come from any region of the empire. The male victims were no older than ten and girls could be up to age sixteen but must be a virgin when chosen; they had to be perfect, unblemished by even a freckle or scar.

While the boys were immediately brought to Cuzco, the young girls, called aclla, taken for sacrifice were often entrusted to the mama-kuna, in the "House of Chosen Women" (aqlla wasi).  Chosen for their looks, the girls were taught to weave and sew here for an extended time. The mama-kuna women were compared to nuns by many Spanish men, as they lived celibate lives, serving the gods. 

There were three groups the girls were divided into. Some girls never left and went on to raise the girls brought after them, and the prettiest were sent as tribute. The rest from the girls brought to become Chosen Women became slaves and concubines in Cuzco, for the noblemen.

Capacocha at Cuzco

The capacocha sacrifice started at the capital city of Cuzco, on the order of the Sapa Inca. The first Sapa Inca to do this sacrifice was Pachacuti. During the festivities of the Capacocha in Cuzco, it was decided what type and quantity of offerings each shrine or wak'a would receive, of which the Incas maintained a clear record.

The tributes were fed well, and those too young to eat would have their mothers with them to breastfeed. This was to ensure that they would be well fed and happy when they prepared to reach the gods. The children were paired off, girl and boy, and dressed finely like little royals.

They were paraded around four large statues, of the Creator, the Sun God, the Moon God, and the Thunder God. The Sapa Inca would say to the priests then to divide the children, along with the other sacrifices, in four, for each of the four suyu regions. He would then order the priests to make their sacrifices at their main wak'akuna.

Sacrifice at the wak'akuna

After the ceremonies at Cusco, the children, the priests and their entourage of companions undertook the trip back to their communities. When they returned, they did not follow the royal road, or the Inca road, as they had gone, but they had to follow a path in a straight line, possibly following the ceque lines that left Cusco and went to the wak'akuna. This was a long and tedious journey, crossing valleys, rivers and mountains, which could take months.

Once at the summit the young victims would then be administered an intoxicating drink or other substance to either induce sleep or a stupor, ostensibly to let the final ritual go on smoothly. If the ceremony was carried out in a particularly cold place, they could die from hypothermia, in other cases death was provoked in a more violent manner, such is the case of the Aconcagua child, with a strong blow to the head, as well as that of the girl at Sara Sara and the young woman from the snowy Ampato, while the cause of death of the "Queen of the Hill" was a puncture wound in the right hemithorax, which entered through her back.

While in some cases, as in Llullaillaco, the bodies were deposited in a burial chamber and covered with gravel, or, in the case of Cerro El Plomo, the sacrificial victim was wrapped in a complex funerary bundle of several pieces with a specific function and message, as in the case of Aconcagua.

When the sacrifices of children and material offerings were buried, the holes couldn't be made using any metal, but in the ceremony dug out using sharpened sticks. Once dead, the children would then be buried in a fetal position, wrapped up in a bundle with various artifacts within the bundle or next to it in the same grave.

Non-human sacrifice and offerings

A number of offerings were often left with the sacrificed individuals at the sites of capacocha ceremonies. The human body itself was often finely dressed and clothed in a feathered headdress and other ornamentation such as a necklace or bracelet.

The most elaborate artifacts were typically paired human statuettes and llama figurines that have been crafted with gold, silver, and spondylus shells. The combination of both male and female figurines alongside the use of both gold and silver was likely meant to pay tribute to the male Sun and the female Moon.

Several sets of ceramics, as well as gold, silver, and bronze pins, were relatively commonplace too. A large amount of cloth was a typical find at capacocha sites too. Some objects that often appear such as plates and bowls have often been found in pairs. Alongside these objects are sometimes found food items. All objects, animals, and people sacrificed to a wak'a, not only represented Inca symbols but were also previously legitimized in ceremonies conducted by the emperor himself.

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