Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña

Top choice in Salta

One of northern Argentina's premier museums, MAAM has a serious and informative exhibition focusing on Inca culture and, in particular, the child sacrifices left on some of the Andes’ most imposing peaks. The centerpiece is the mummified body of one of three children (rotated every six months) discovered at the peak of Llullaillaco in 1999. It was a controversial decision to display the bodies and it is a powerful experience to come face-to-face with them.

Intricately plaited hair and clothes are perfectly preserved, and their faces reflect – you decide – a distant past or a typical 21st-century Salta face; a peaceful passing or a tortured death.

The grave goods impress by their immediacy, with colors as fresh as the day they were produced. The illas (small votive figurines of animals and humans) are of silver, gold, shell and onyx, and many are clothed in textiles. It’s difficult to imagine that a more privileged look at pre-Columbian South American culture will ever be offered to us. Also exhibited is the ‘Reina del Cerro,’ a tomb-robbed mummy that ended up here after a turbulent history. Good videos give background on the sacrifices and on the Qhapaq Ñan, the Inca road system given Unesco status in 2014.

There’s a shop and library as well as a cafe-bar with terrace.