A recent analysis of three mummified Inca children found atop Argentina's 20,000-foot Llullaillacao Volcano revealed large amounts of cocaine and corn beer consumed by the human sacrifices in their final days, a new study reports.
The oldest of the Inca youths was a 13-year-old girl known as the "Ice Maiden," who along with her two companions, a four-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, were believed to have lived some 500 years ago.
According to researchers, frigid, high-altitude, combined with up to a year of consuming drugs and alcohol were the likely causes of death for the youths, NBC News reported
The analysis stems from hair samples that were removed from the mummified youths.
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After examining the bodies of the mummified children, researchers were unable to find any evidence of direct violence against them.
"She was probably heavily sedated by the point at which she succumbs to death," Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom and the study's lead author, told NBC News.
The younger children are believed to have been the Ice Maiden's attendants. Both children, despite being of peasant origins, appear to have lived a high-status life in the year before their sacrificial death, researchers conclude due to the amount of meat and corn they consumed.
John Verano, an anthropologist at Tulane University in New Orleans, was not surprised by the amount of corn beer and coca leaf consumed by the Ice Maiden and her companions, considering the plant that contains cocaine features prominently in Andean culture.
"[It's] not a surprise in itself, but it is particularly interesting the level of detail at which [the researchers] are able to look at it," Verano told NBC News. "It allows them to hypothesize why the older child of the three was drinking so much chicha [corn beer] in her last month of life and what that might have indicated about her lifestyle and activities."
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The mummies, which were discovered in 1999 inside a tomb structure atop the Llullaillacao Volcano, were likely known throughout the Inca empire, brought across the region to put fear into enemies and force new allegiances with other tribes that bordered the Inca's ever expanding empire.
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