"[The Maiden] became somebody other than who she was before," said study lead author Andrew Wilson, an archaeologist at the University of Bradford in the U.K. "Her sacrifice was seen as an honor."
To learn about the final moments of a mummy's life, scientists will sometimes turn to hair samples, which provide a record of what substances were circulating in the blood when new hair cells formed. And because hair grows at a relatively constant rate, it can provide a kind of timeline of what a person has consumed (the length of the timeline depends on the length of hair available).
In a 2007 study, Wilson and his colleagues analyzed the child mummies' hair to understand how their diets changed over time. They found that the children came from a peasant background, as their diet consisted mainly of common vegetables, potatoes in particular. But in the year leading up to their deaths, they ate "elite" food, including maize and dried llama meat, and appeared to have been fattened up in preparation for the sacrifice.