PERU- Archaeologists have discovered the site of the largest single mass child sacrifice in world history.
More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire, Kristin Romey at National Geographic reports.
While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world.
“I, for one, never expected it,” says John Verano, a physical anthropologist who has several decades’ worth of experience in the region. “And I don’t think anyone else would have, either.”
More than 140 children were ritually killed in a single mass sacrifice some 550 years ago in Peru—and archaeologists think they know what prompted the act. https://t.co/R62VBT4fmc
— National Geographic (@NatGeo) April 26, 2018
The site was first brought to the attention by excavators in 2011, when locals discovered eroded human remains in the area. At that time, the remains of only 42 children and 76 llamas were found.
By 2016, the remains of 140 children and 200 young llamas had been discovered at the site. Radiocarbon dating pinpointed the date of the supposed sacrifice between 1400 and 1450.
The condition of the remains suggests the children had incurred cuts to the sternum and rib dislocations for the removal of their hearts.
The 140 sacrificed children ranged in age from about five to 14, with the majority between the ages of eight and 12; most were buried facing west, out to the sea. The llamas were less than 18 months old and generally interred facing east, toward the high peaks of the Andes.
The investigators believe all of the human and animal victims were ritually killed in a single event, based on evidence from a dried mud layer found in the eastern, least disturbed part of the 7,500-square-foot site. They believe the mud layer once covered the entire sandy dune where the ritual took place, and it was disturbed during the preparation of the burial pits and the subsequent sacrifice event.