Archaeologists discovered the site of an ancient mass sacrifice of children

Wendy Jensen
April 30, 2018

In what is being dubbed as the world's largest known child sacrifice site, archaeologists in northern Peru are said to have found the burial site known as Las Llamas.

The ancient Chimu people occupied the third largest city in Peru, with approximately 800,000 inhabitants.

Quilter is reportedly heading a team of scientists who will analyse DNA samples from the children's remains to see if they were related and figure out which areas of the ChimĂș empire the sacrificed youth came from.

The skeleton of a child cradles another skeleton of a young llama in the sand
The children and llamas were buried together in the wet mud around the year 1450

Other South American civilizations, like the Incas and the Aztec, practiced ritual human sacrifice, but archaeologists have never found children's bodies in such a high concentration before.

Current research in Peru, officially called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, conducted by an global team funded by the National geographic society.

The investigation, led by Nat Geo's Gabriel Prieto and John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Louisiana's Tulane University, linked the site to the ChimĂș civilization, a pre-Columbian society that worshipped the moon.

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The gruesome scene also contained the skeletons of 200 baby llamas. At the same time, the young llamas, less than 18 months old at the time of the sacrifice, were interred facing the opposite direction, towards the Andes.

The skeletons of 140 children between the ages of about five and 14 were found at a site called Las Llamas near the modern day city of Trujillo.

The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, suggesting that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart, the publication said. Archeologist have been exploring the dig site known as "Huanchaquito-Las Llamas" since 2011 when locals found human remains there.

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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.

"When people hear about what happened and the scale of it, the first thing they always ask is: why", Gabriel Prieto, the other lead researcher, told National Geographic. But evidence of mass sacrifices of children are not many. They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices. "This clearly was a different type of ritual-just children in the sand", said Verano. Based on the layers of mud at the site, archeologists believe the sacrificial ritual was a single event.

The mass child grave lies less than half a mile from the Chan Chan Archaeological Zone, located on the remains of the Chimu Kingdom capital, Chan Chan, and which now is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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