is a stratovolcano
A stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano, is a tall, conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash. Unlike shield volcanoes, stratovolcanoes are characterized by a steep profile and periodic, explosive eruptions...
at the border of Argentina
Argentina , officially the Argentine Republic , is the second largest country in South America by land area, after Brazil. It is constituted as a federation of 23 provinces and an autonomous city, Buenos Aires...
Salta is a province of Argentina, located in the northwest of the country. Neighboring provinces are from the east clockwise Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán and Catamarca. It also surrounds Jujuy...
) and Chile
Chile ,officially the Republic of Chile , is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far...
. It lies in the Puna de Atacama
The Puna de Atacama or Atacama Plateau is an arid high plateau averaging about above sea level and spanning an area of , in the Andes of northern Chile and Argentina and southwest Bolivia. Before the War of the Pacific , the region belonged to Bolivia. In 1898 it was ceded to Argentina in...
, a region of very high volcanic peaks on a high plateau within the Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains. It is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world...
, one of the driest places in the world. It is the fifth highest volcano in the world, and it is also the seventh highest mountain of the Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...
Llullaillaco follows the typical Puna de Atacama volcano pattern: it is surrounded by large debris fields, and is perpetually capped by snow and small glaciers despite the extremely dry conditions of the region.
The peak's name comes from Aymara
Aymara is an Aymaran language spoken by the Aymara people of the Andes. It is one of only a handful of Native American languages with over three million speakers. Aymara, along with Quechua and Spanish, is an official language of Peru and Bolivia...
"murky water": llulla
= dirty and yacu
= water. Other sources propose it to have originated from Quechua
Quechua is a Native South American language family and dialect cluster spoken primarily in the Andes of South America, derived from an original common ancestor language, Proto-Quechua. It is the most widely spoken language family of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with a total of probably...
= lie, Yacu
= water: "lying (or treacherous) water".
It has been confirmed that Incas climbed Llullaillaco in the pre-Columbian
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...
period. Artifacts on the summit constitute the highest evidence of human presence worldwide before the late nineteenth century. Also, the huáqueros may have also reached its summit and those of other mountains in the region during their searches. The first recorded ascent was on December 1, 1952, by Bión González and Juan Harseim.
There are several climbing routes which do not require specialized climbing techniques, although the altitude imposes great difficulty and is by itself a very dangerous factor. Crampons
Crampons are traction devices used to improve mobility on snow and ice. There are three main attachment systems for footwear: step-in, hybrid, and strap bindings. The first two require boots with welts, the last adapt to any type....
and an ice axe
An ice axe, is a multi-purpose ice and snow tool used by mountaineers both in the ascent and descent of routes which involve frozen conditions. It can be held and employed in a number of different ways, depending on the terrain encountered...
are needed as most paths cross ice fields.
However, the area on the Chilean side of the mountain is known to have some land mines that were installed during the Argentina-Chile conflict period of 1978–1982
The Beagle Conflict was a border dispute between Chile and Argentina over the possession of Picton, Lennox and Nueva islands and the scope of the maritime jurisdiction associated with those islands that brought the countries to the brink of war in 1978....
, thus rendering it extremely dangerous.
During 1983–85 American archaeologist Dr Johan Reinhard
Dr. Johan Reinhard is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at The Mountain Institute, West Virginia, a Visiting Professor at Catholic University, Salta, Argentina, and an Honorary Professor of Catholic University, Arequipa, Peru...
directed three surveys of archaeological sites on the summit and slopes of the mountain.
In 1999 on Llullaillaco's summit, an Argentine-Peruvian expedition co-directed by Johan Reinhard and Argentine archaeologist Constanza Ceruti found the perfectly preserved bodies of three Inca children, sacrifice
Human sacrifice is the act of killing one or more human beings as part of a religious ritual . Its typology closely parallels the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals and of religious sacrifice in general. Human sacrifice has been practised in various cultures throughout history...
d approximately 500 years earlier. This is the highest Inca burial so far discovered in Tawantinsuyu, and is the world's highest archaeological site.
According to contemporary writings by Spanish priests, these children were participants in capacocha
250px|thumb|Aztec burial of a sacrificed child at [[Tlatelolco |Tlatelolco]].The practice of child sacrifice in Pre-Columbian cultures, in particular Mesoamerican and South American cultures, is well documented both in the archaeological records and in written sources...
, a sacrificial rite that occurred in celebration of key events in the life of the Inca emperor.
The mummies are those of a 15-year-old girl, nicknamed "La doncella" (The maiden), a seven-year-old boy, and a six-year-old girl, nicknamed "La niña del rayo" (The lightning girl). The latter's nickname reflects the fact that sometime in the 500 year period the mummy spent on the summit, it was struck by lightning, partially burning the preserved body and some of the ceremonial artifacts left with the mummies.
The three mummies are exhibited at the Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña in Salta
Salta is a city in northwestern Argentina and the capital city of the Salta Province. Along with its metropolitan area, it has a population of 464,678 inhabitants as of the , making it Argentina's eighth largest city.-Overview:...
, Argentina, in a rotating fashion, so as not to expose any of the mummies for too long a time at once. Mummies are typically rotated in the exhibit every six months.
'La Doncella', older girl mummy
This mummy was found wearing a magnificent headdress, which meant she was probably an aclla
or Sun Virgin. That is, she was chosen and sanctified as a toddler to live with other girls and women who would become royal wives, priestesses, and sacrifices. She also wore a brown dress, and was buried with several statues. Her hair was braided elaborately and she had a few white hairs, perhaps indicating emotional stress. She and the others are believed to have been drugged with chicha
For the musical genre, see Peruvian cumbiaChicha is a term used in some regions of Latin America for several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages, rather often to those derived from maize and similar non-alcoholic beverages...
, a maize beer, along with coca leaves, before being abandoned on the mountain.
Some of the boy's clothes contained vomit mixed with blood, suggesting that he may have suffered from a pulmonary edema. It is believed that he died from suffocation. He was the only one of the mummies to be tied up, and a piece of cloth had been pulled around him tightly enough to crack his ribs and dislocate his pelvis.
'Lightning Girl', young girl mummy
This child's body was hit by lightning sometime after her death. She wore a headdress with a metal plate over her brow. She was buried with jars which were made around Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It sits 3,811 m above sea level, making it the highest commercially navigable lake in the world...
and Cuzco, showing how far she may have traveled. She is the only one of the three whose face is turned upward.
Two major geological stages can be highlighted in the history of the volcano: Llullaillaco I, the ancestral primary volcano, dates back to the Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....
. Two very eroded cones with associated lava flows, up to 20 km in length, distributed mainly to the West, evidence these stages.
Built upon it there is a well preserved secondary post-glacial edifice called Llullaillaco II, which has been active during human history. Many Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...
lava flows are associated with this latter phase; the two most notable are directed North and South of the volcano. These youthful-looking dacitic flows have been dated to be of late Pleistocene age. Moreover, hot avalanche deposits, extending up to 3 km, are associated with one of the southern lava flows. There are still other very conspicuous flows remaining: one of the most striking, apparently caused by partial collapse of Lullaillaco I about 150,000 years ago, extends eastward into Argentina, diverging around Cerro Rosado stratovolcano 17 km to the East and terminating in the Salar del Llullaillaco. This deposit has not yet been thoroughly studied.
There are reports of eruptions in 1854, 1868, and 1877, possibly causing the youngest lava flows in the area, which are easily recognizable because of their very dark appearance.