US returns mummy of Inca girl to Bolivia after more than a century

View of some of the paleontological items returned by Chile to Bolivia in a La Paz ceremony on Aug. 5, 2019. EFE-EPA/ Yolanda Salazar

View of some of the paleontological items returned by Chile to Bolivia in a La Paz ceremony on Aug. 5, 2019. EFE-EPA/ Yolanda Salazar


The United States on Monday returned to Bolivia the mummy of an eight-year-old girl from the country’s Inca period after it had been in the possession of a US museum for 129 years.

The mummy - which was delivered to the Bolivian Culture Ministry - was presented at a ceremony at the Foreign Ministry in La Paz, where Bolivian Foreign Minister Diego Pary and Culture Minister Wilma Alanoca signed a delivery agreement for assorted cultural items returned by the United States, Argentina and Chile.

“This case perhaps may be the most emblematic, given that it is the first time that a mummy has been recovered from abroad,” Pary said.

The foreign minister said that in 1890 a US diplomat donated the mummy - dubbed “la ñusta” (the royal princess) - to the University of Michigan.

The mummy of the little girl has been dated to the Inca period between 1450 and 1532 as per the characteristics of the materials and the mummification technique used, Pary said.

The mummified girl may have come from the town of Pacajes, in La Paz province, and she had been removed from her resting place with assorted funerary items including agricultural products and small stones, although the reasons for and manner of her death are not known, the foreign minister said.

The US Embassy in Bolivia wrote on Twitter that it fully supported the return of mummified remains to Bolivia and expressed pleasure at the recovery by Bolivia’s National Museum of Archaeology.

Minister Alanoca said that the mummy, like other recovered items, will be held at the National Museum of Archaeology in La Paz and will be subjected to other scientific and laboratory tests to acquire more information about it.

“This repatriation really is historic because not only are we repatriating cultural items, but also an ancestral body ... This opens up other spaces to us to continue investigating,” Alanoca said.

In addition, she announced that in November an exposition will be held to publicly display all the recovered items.

Among the items returned to Bolivia are at least 42 paleontological specimens that were seized in 2016 in Chile when a Malaysian citizen tried to bring the fossils into that country, Pary said.

In addition, an archaeological piece called “El Keru” was recovered from Argentina, namely a type of ceramic container belonging to the Mollo culture of La Paz between 1150 and 1450.

“It’s a state responsibility of our government to recover our heritage items, our cultural goods that are part of the life and the construction of our Plurinational State,” the Bolivian foreign minister said.

Participating in the return ceremony was the US charge d’affaires in Bolivia, Bruce Williamson, along with diplomatic representatives from Argentina, Normando Alvarez, and Spain - Emilio Perez - among other officials.