Is Peru's Famed 'Ice Maiden' in Danger?

Peru's famed "Ice Maiden," the frozen mummy of an Inca girl sacrificed to the gods 500 years ago, might be at risk from humidity, Peru's leading newspaper reported Wednesday.

Dampness was detected inside the mummy's glass-enclosed refrigeration compartment by an expert from the U.S. Smithsonian Institution who was vacationing in the southern Andean city of Arequipa, where the mummy is kept, daily newspaper El Comercio reported.

Teodoro Nunez Medina, Arequipa's regional director of Peru's National Institute of Culture, told the newspaper that the unnamed expert notified Peruvian authorities that the mummy could deteriorate beyond repair within five years if the problem is not corrected.

Peru celebrated a national religious holiday Wednesday and neither Medina nor other Institute of Culture officials could be reached for comment.

Medina was quoted by El Comercio saying that a group of specialists would inspect the mummy next week to see if there was already any damage.

The "Ice Maiden" — a girl between 12 and 14 — was discovered in 1995 in a ceremonial burial pit near the top of 20,700-foot Mount Ampato, near Arequipa by Dr. Johan Reinhard, a U.S. archaeologist.

The Ice Maiden was thought to be the best-preserved Inca mummy in the world until 1999, when three frozen other mummies were discovered by another Reinhard-led team atop a mountain in Argentina. Those were so well-preserved they still had blood in their hearts and lungs, unlike the Ice Maiden.