Published: Mon, April 30, 2018
Culture | By Margie Dunn

Archaeologists find ancient mass child sacrifice in Peru

Archaeologists find ancient mass child sacrifice in Peru

Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of more than 140 children in the northern coast of Peru in what appears to have been the largest instance of mass child sacrifice in the Americas - if not the entire world, according to an exclusive report from National Geographic.

Chan Chan, the capial of the Chimu Empire in what is now Trujillo, Peru. Estimates are that children and 200 young lamas were sacrificed about 550 years ago when the area was home to the Chimú civilization.

"We now know there was child sacrifice on a massive scale in ancient Peru, in a manner not seen before in South America", said Verano.

The discovery, by an worldwide team funded by the National Geographic Society, was made on Peru's northern coast at a site called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas.

In 2011, the first discovery of human sacrifice victims at the site, known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, uncovered the remains of 40 victims and 74 llamas during the excavation of a 3,500-year-old temple.

"I, for one, never expected it", physical anthropologist John Verano, one of the researchers, told the magazine.

The children's skulls are stained with red, evidence that they were sacrificed in ritual killings, as the pigment was used in ceremonies.

Peru's northern coast, where the children and baby llamas were found has been under excavation since 2011. The child llamas have been buried dealing with east, towards the excessive peaks of the Andes. When discovered, some of the human and animal victims seemed to have had their chests cut open, perhaps to have their hearts removed, according to Nat Geo.

By 2016, the remains of 140 children and 200 young llamas had been discovered at the site.

As for the three adults found nearby, "signs of blunt-force trauma to the head and a lack of grave goods with the adult bodies lead researchers to suspect that they may have played a role in the sacrifice event and were dispatched shortly thereafter", the report read.

"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic", Verano told National Geographic.

Researchers believe the sacrifice may have had to do with the Chimu's desperate attempts to appease El-Nino - a weather cycle occurring every 2-7 years that can cause stronger hurricanes, flooding and increased rainfall. But evidence of mass sacrifices of children are not many. "Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim".

The discovery, supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, was made close to what was then the capital of the Chimu Empire - Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage site near modern-day Trujillo.

Prieto also suggested that "this just may be the tip of the iceberg".

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