Category Archives: ARGENTINA

La Doncella: The Best Preserved Child Mummy in History

La Doncella: The Best Preserved Child Mummy in History

A team of Johan Reinhard ‘s expedition carried out an archaeological excavation in Argentina in 1999, near the summit of the highest active volcano in the world, Mount Llullaillaco. The crew set their camp 6,600 meters above sea level where the temperature dropped to -40 ° C.

A shock arose when a group member shouted “Mummy!” And so they discovered the “best burial site” in the world and, above all, the most preserved mummy in history.

On the site archeologists found 3 child mummies (the other two are La niña del rayo and El niño). However, the child mummy La Doncella (translated as The Maiden) was the most notable one.

500-year-old La Doncella

La Doncella is the mummy of a 15-year-old Incan girl. Over 500 years ago, she was offered as a sacrifice to the Incan God of Sun. Scientists determined that before La Doncella was taken high up in the Andes Mountains, she was given chicha, a corn beer that made her fall into a deep sleep.

Coca leaves were found on her lips, which was used by the Incans to decrease the effects of altitude sickness. Furthermore, coins were found in La Doncella’s palm, alluding to her status as a messenger to heaven.

The Inca Empire and the Incan culture were wiped out by the Spanish conquerors. There exist such few traces of this civilization that once dominated South America.

As a result, the well-preserved ceramics and artefacts found alongside La Doncella carry vital importance. They illuminate the past and tell us a lot about the vanished Incan culture.

The site where the mummies were found / Johan Reinhard

Virgins of the Sun

Virgins of the Sun were young girls who, around the age of 10, were chosen, or in some cases endowed by their families, to become servants or sacrifices to the Incan God of Sun.

The Virgins of the Sun had minimal duties, such as preparing offerings to the God. At a certain age, most of these virgin girls would be selected as concubines to the royal Incan court. Only a few of them would be selected as human sacrifices to the Sun God.

On the contrary to how people may react to this proposition today, back then, to be chosen as a sacrifice to the Sun God was a great honor. It was documented by the Incans that the virgins who were given the privilege to be sacrificed were treated as demi-god princesses.

A depiction of La Doncella as a Virgin of the Sun

Hair Samples from La Doncella

White Hair: Genetics or Stress?

Upon examining the body of La Doncella, scientists were struck by the fact that the young girl had strands of white hair. A highly unusual case for a 15-year old, this was thought to be on account of two possible factors: genetics or a high number of stressors in the girl’s life.

Her diet was changed to prepare her for the sacrifice

Scientists from University of Bradford, England, found out about La Doncella’s diet after examining her hair samples.

A year before her death, La Doncella’s diet consisted of vegetables and potatoes, a diet typically consumed by those in the lower class. However, later on her diet had changed to maize and meat, which was considered as the food of the upper classes.

As the research suggests, this shift in her diet dates back to the start of her life as a Virgin of the Sun, during which La Doncella was being prepared for sacrifice.

Her hair was braided right before she died

Where is La Doncella exhibited?

As of September 2007, La Doncella has been exhibited at the High Mountain Archeological Museum in Salta, Argentina. A special display was built for her keeping true to the conditions in which she was found.

Child mummy La Doncella in display

Rancher finds the strange rock on his farm, it was not what he had in mind at all

Rancher finds the strange rock on his farm, it was not what he had in mind at all

A rancher came across an old bone sticking out of his desert property near La Flecha in the Patagonia region of Argentina four years ago. With the recent news of exciting dinosaur finds in that country in mind, he scratched around some more. Then he went to a local museum to ask paleontologists to come to look for more fossils.

The head of the Titanosaur sticks out into the hallway at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. The discovery that led to the exhibit started with a find by a rancher in the Patagonia region of Argentina.Credit…

Many important dinosaur discoveries are made by non-experts in just this casual way. The rancher’s find soon led to the exposure of skeletal remains of six of the biggest titanosaurs. These herbivores lived about 100 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous Period, on all continents, including Antarctica. They seemed especially plentiful in southern lands.

Now, the most imposing one of these dinosaurs from the far south of South America, assembled from 84 fossil pieces excavated from the rancher’s land, is the newest eyeful of ancient life on display at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The hulking skeleton cast made its debut as a permanent attraction. Museum officials and scientists called it a must-see addition to the ranks of such popular icons as the institution’s great blue whale and the fierce Tyrannosaurus rex.

“There’s nothing like finding a great new fossil, especially such a huge one,” said Michael J. Novacek, the museum’s senior vice president, provost of science and a curator of paleontology.

The dinosaur on which the Titanosaur cast is based was excavated in the desert near La Flecha, Argentina. Paleontologists at Argentina’s Paleontological Museum Egidio Ferugilio did much of the excavation.

The new research is expected to yield insights into the physiology of dinosaurs and how they were able to grow and function as such large creatures.

“Paleontology has become less geological and more biological in the last 20 years or so,” said Mark A. Norell, chairman of the paleontology division at the museum and a leading dinosaur researcher. He cited the field’s new “geochemical tools” for determining diet, growth patterns, and locomotion. “All of us are simply biologists who work on fossils,” he added.

The exhibit is not only a centerpiece for the museum’s fossil collections but also the start of a wide range of dinosaur programs for the year, including symposiums and another exhibition, “Dinosaurs Among Us,”

The Patagonian skeleton was not an easy fit in its New York home. At 122 feet in length, it was a bit too long for the gallery. Part of its 39-foot-long neck extends through an opening in a wall toward the elevator banks as if to welcome visitors to the fossil floors.

This titanosaur was a young adult, gender undetermined. Its appetite for all kinds of vegetation must have been prodigious. Based on bone sizes, researchers estimated that this individual weighed 70 tons — as much as 10 African elephants, the heaviest land animals today. Think of its possible heft if it were fully grown. Think of it satisfying its huge appetite by stretching its long neck to graze far and wide. With only a few shifts in position, it might have mowed the equivalent of all the grass in Yankee Stadium in a morning.

Weight was also a factor in preparing the skeleton cast for display, a task undertaken by Research Casting International in Canada. The actual mineralized fossils were too heavy to mount. Instead, all “bones” are made from lightweight fiberglass based on digital copies of the original fossils.

Much of the grueling excavation leading to the discovery was done by teams led by José Luis Carballido and Diego Pol, paleontologists at Paleontological Museum Egidio Feruglio in Argentina. They began excavating for months at a time after the rancher’s visit. Sometimes it took a week of digging to isolate a single femur or a forelimb. Thighs and upper arms are critical to judging the size and weight of a dinosaur.

Dr. Pol said the excavations revealed that at least six of these giant individuals, all young adults, had died at the site of what had been a flood plain near a river. Their deaths had happened at three distinct times, anywhere from a few years to centuries apart. Like many herding animals, they may have become isolated from the group and died of stress and hunger near their watering hole.

“That’s when we realized this was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Dr. Pol said. Dinosaurs are the big game to fossil hunters, and these were some of the biggest plant-eating dinosaurs ever found.

The size and distinctive shape of an eight-foot femur of one specimen astonished scientists. This appeared to be a previously unknown titanosaur species, yet unnamed. Dr. Pol said a report that is being prepared may soon propose a formal species name.

In a bravura moment, Dr. Pol had his picture taken stretched out on the ground beside the femur, about the size of a living room couch. The photograph caught the attention of paleontologists at the natural history museum in New York, where Dr. Pol had done his Ph.D. research. “Maybe we can get that thing,” one said. “That would look great for a renovated dinosaur gallery,” another said.

Early last year, Dr. Novacek signed the deal with the Argentine museum to build the full-size skeleton cast for permanent display in New York. On a visit a few days before the titanosaur’s unveiling, workers were applying finishing touches as Dr. Norell paused at the entrance, under the watchful eye and toothy jaw of the star attraction.

A section of neck was rolled out of the basement garage of the museum. Scientists were astonished by the size and distinctive shape of the find.

“I guarantee you are going to remember this first impression,” Dr. Norell said. “Seeing something like this, you don’t quite have anything to compare its size and aspect with.”

He was right. The dinosaur was inexpressibly strange and big. Once again, we are reminded of what we know: Dinosaurs mostly were big, an engaging mystery and a challenge. The titanosaur’s arrival at the museum may inspire a new understanding of these incredible creatures. It is exciting enough to walk a corridor to the fossil galleries in anticipation of meeting it and spending some time with old friends of fond memory.

Dr. Novacek is not bothered by some skepticism that the specimens are from the biggest dinosaur discovered so far and that these may soon be eclipsed in size by new excavations.

“Every time we find the biggest dinosaur,” he said, “we soon find a bigger one in the next dig.”

The first dinosaur remains from the Cretaceous of Ecuador

A Titanosaur in Ecuador? New Dinosaur Discovered!

Ecuador has found the fossils of a previously unknown titanosaurus. The medium to small-sized dinosaur lived 85 million years ago, during the Upper Cretaceous period.

The remains have been found in the province of Loja at the southern end of the country. It is the first time in the history of dinosaur fossils and the northernmost example of its sauropod subfamily to date have been found.

The fossils of the titanosaur, called Yamanasaurus lojaensis, are the first of their kind and were discovered by a farmer in rocks of the Río Playas Formation in the Yamana parish. According to a report in El Universo , the fossils were passed along until they eventually became state property.

In August 2018, Argentinian paleontologist Sebastián Apesteguía of the University Maimónides was called in by professors John Soto, José Tamay, and Galo Guamán at the Technical University of Loja (UTPL) to give a conference and provide an expert’s opinion on the fossils.

Apesteguía told El Universo that he was asked to verify if the fossils came from a dinosaur and if he could tell the professors anything about the long -extinct creature . He could and did.

“It was a shock” Apesteguía said “the material they showed me was incredible because it is clearly the last two sacral vertebrae of a titanosaur.

Later my colleague Pablo Gallina and I were able to find out exactly what kind of titanosaur, but at that moment there was no doubt in my mind that it was a medium to small sized dinosaur.”

A paper on the discovery in Cretaceous Research states that altogether the Yamanasaurus lojaensis fossils include “a partial sacrum, a partial mid-caudal vertebra, and several associated limb bones” and the “Morphology, size, and age suggest that Yamanasaurus is closely related to Neuquensaurus, being the northernmost known by far.”

Image demonstrating the recently identified titanosaur’s size in comparison to a female adult and the fossils that were found (in red).

Technical processes were then carried out in Loja and analyses of the results in Buenos Aires . When the vertebrae were examined, the experts were able to make a particularly useful find – not the presence of chambers, which are more commonly found in a saltasaurus titanosaur (a titanosaurid sauropod dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period with fossils found in Argentina), but a texture that was more sponge like.

This means that the animal was more similar to a Neuquensaurus australis (a genus of saltasaurid sauropod dinosaur that is from the same period but has left fossils in both Argentina and Uruguay).

And with this information in hand, Apesteguía told El Universo that the image of what the dinosaur looked like became clear:

“The comparison of the vertebrae, especially the caudal [tail] vertebrae of the Neuquensaurus, to the Patagonian saltasaurus, they have exactly the same form and size.

That means the animal is identical to Neuquensaurus, including the internal structure of the bones. So, it wasn’t necessary to invent much.

It’s pretty much placing the parts we have of the Yamanasaurus on the skeleton of a Neuquensaurus. It’s really rather simple. They are practically identical.”

Analysis of one of the vertebrae.

The researchers believe that the titanosaur was an herbivore that likely ate from smaller trees. But what does Apesteguía mean when he says that Yamanasaurus lojaensis is a medium to smaller-sized dinosaur? In this case, it refers to a creature that measured approximated six meters (19.69 ft.) long, was robust, and had a protective shell, according to El Comercio .

Its skin was also probably covered with tiny bones to provide further protection from predators. The reconstruction of Ecuador’s first known dinosaur was created by Argentinian paleoartist Jorge González.

An artistic representation of the Yamanasaurus lojaensis.

Apart from being Ecuador’s first known example of dinosaur fossils, the significance of this discovery has a wider reach. Apesteguía told El Universo that the find provides another detail on the knowledge of dinosaurs that lived in the region, “It’s the first in Ecuador and scientifically it’s the most northern, most boreal, example of a saltasaur that we have found.

Until now, the most northern was in the north of Argentina. But suddenly there’s a jump and we find the same type of animal from the same time period in Ecuador.”

Experts are aware that the lucky discovery of the titanosaur fossils may mean there are more to find in the area, so they’re already planning for a search, according to El Universo.

But there are very real concerns that if the proper authorities don’t act quickly they may lose out to others finding fossils and selling them on the black market before the experts even start their search.

Reconstruction of the titanosaur.

The mummified corpse of ‘magical’ baby boy who died 50 years ago attracts thousands of pilgrims

The mummified corpse of ‘magical’ baby boy who died 50 years ago attracts thousands of pilgrims

There are thousands of pilgrims hundreds of miles traveling to visit the tiny body of Miguel Ángel Gaitán, Spanish for “Miracle Child”. “El Angelito Milagroso.”

Fifteen days prior to his first birthday in 1967, Miguel died of meningitis. Seven years ago, however, he apparently returned from beyond the grave seven years later and refused to go back – so his family members displayed their wrinkled corpse to worshippers to visit. 

A young boy poses with Miguel

El Angelito was buried where he was born in Banda Florida, a small town in the northwest of Argentina.

But seven years later something odd began to happen when the boy’s grave and the coffin would often be found open – with objects and pieces of a stone thrown all around it.

The cemetery janitors initially blamed violent rainstorms that were battering the city at the time.

But the mysterious happenings continued even after the weather improved.

Pilgrims leave flowers, pictures, and toys around Miguel

The boy’s mother said: “We would even put stones and other objects over the cover – but every morning we’d find it open.

“We then figured Miguelito did not want to be covered – he wanted to be seen.”

Villagers moved the coffin out in the open – but then the coffin’s lid kept being removed.

Interpreting the bizarre phenomenon as a further sign Miguel wanted to be seen, the family moved him to a coffin with a glass lid.

Even after almost 50 years, Miguel’s tiny wrinkled corpse is still incredibly well-preserved.

The child’s body quickly became a local attraction and rumours began to spread far and wide about his supposed magical powers.

For decades now thousands of Argentinians from across the country have descended on the remote town to seek a miracle.

One man – Daniel Saavedra – went to visit El Angelito when he fell ill with a rare pancreatic disease and within weeks he made a full recovery – he claims.

While some people believe touching the mummy’s forehead can help them, others just come to see the peculiar situation and hear the story.

Many of the visitors leave toys and flowers at the tomb.