National Geographic : 1996 Jun
set rules as to how to work with a frozen body with 500-year-old textiles on it." She sought advice from special ists abroad, notably the Iceman team in Austria, Juan Schobinger, an archaeologist at the National University of Cuyo in Argentina, and Silvia Quevedo, a physical anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History in Santiago, Chile. Silvia had worked on both the El Plomo and Aconcagua mummies. Ideally, these experts said, the girl's frozen body and textiles should be freeze-stored at a higher humidity than her desic cated head. After much discus sion it was agreed to keep the freezer temperature between 0°F and 7°F and the humidity at about 80 percent. Horst Seidler from the Insti tute of Human Biology at the University of Vienna, Austria, favored removing the textiles immediately to protect both the clothing and the body, which re quire different treatment. "First, second, and third, you must remove the textiles," he urged. To avoid thawing the mum my, we initially limited her time outside the freezer to about 30 minutes a day. This meant that each unwrapping session proceeded with focused urgency and that overall progress was annoyingly slow. After Jose Antonio Chavez, my co-director, decided to use ice packs to keep the body frozen, the sessions were longer but no less tense: The specter of an irreversible error-damaging the girl's skin or a textile-haunted the team. The mummy's tumble from the summit had unraveled her rough outer garment, fragments of which were scattered on the slope above. The next textile layer-an unexceptional brown and-white-striped cloth -showed damage as well, although the fabric was largely complete. Below that was her lliclla, the shawl that has caught the atten tion of textile experts like William Conklin. The girl's pigtail was tied to her waistband by a thread of black alpaca, so other people must have helped dress her, either just before or just after she died. Silver shawl pins fastened her clothing; attached to these pins were threads hung with miniature wooden carvings: a box, two drinking vessels, and what looked like a dog or a fox. When we uncovered the girl's right hand and saw that she was clutching her aksu, or body wrap, in a death grip, her humanity really hit us. We now have to figure out how to remove the textile without damaging the skin of her hand. Outwardly perfect, the second mummy raised expectations inArequipa. With her body packed in ice, researchers try to free herface. William Conklin (left, at left) and project co director Jose Antonio Chdvez help lift off her headdress. Yet under her clothing lay lightning-damaged bones a disappointment balanced by treasures such as a tiny sandal from her grave. "Everything about these mummies has brought surprises," notes Conk lin, "andthere's lots more that we won't know for years."