Largest mass sacrifice of children uncovered in Peru

Sergio Cunningham
April 29, 2018

Archaeologists have uncovered the bodies of more than 140 children and 200 llamas in what appears to be the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas and possibly in world history-on Peru's northern coast.

At the time of the supposed sacrifice, the area was under the little-known Chimú Empire.

Human remains and pottery items dating more than 1,500 years were found at an excavation site in the northern coastal town of Huanchaco, Peru, on March 21, 2018.

Ongoing scientific investigations into the Peru site, formally called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, are being carried out by an global team funded by the National Geographic Society.

The investigations were carried out by an global team led by National Geographic's Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto, of the National University of Trujillo, and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University in New Orleans.

An accidental discovery of skeletal remains in 2011 on a site formerly known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas was the precursor to an archaeological excavation that began in 2014.

The 140 sacrificed children were aged between five and 14, while the llamas were less than 18 months old, the National Geographic reported. 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.

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The site was first brought to the attention by excavators in 2011, when locals discovered eroded human remains in the area. Archaeologists noted that most of the children had been buried facing west toward the ocean and llamas were looking toward the east at the Andes.

"I, for one, never expected it", Verano told the magazine about the magnitude of the discovery. Radiocarbon dating of ropes left around numerous llama's necks dates the event to 1450 AD, about 20 years before the Chimu empire was conquered by the Incan empire.

"Until now, the largest mass child sacrifice event for which we have physical evidence is the ritual murder and interment of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan", National Geographic said, referring to what is modern-day Mexico City.

"There's this idea that ritual killing is contractual, that it's performed to get something from supernatural deities", Klaus said.

The researchers are now attempting to trace who the children were, and where they came from. They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices.

The team said that mud found at the site could have been the result of severe flooding and rain at the time that could disrupted food supplies.

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