Largest mass sacrifice of children uncovered in Peru

Largest known child sacrifice site discovered in Peru

Scientific investigations by the global, interdisciplinary team, led by National Geographic Explorers Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are ongoing. "And I do not think anyone else would have, either". "It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic", Verano said.

The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.

Over the next 5 years, archaeologists supported by grants from the National Geographic Society uncovered the remains of more than 140 children aged 5 to 14, as well as 200 young llamas, dating from about 1450 C.E. The llamas and the children had cuts to the breastbone and dislocated ribs-suggesting that their hearts may have been removed.

Haagen Klaus from George Mason University, who was not part of the excacation, hypothesized the Chimu may have turned to sacrificing children to stave off the repeated disruptions brought about by El-Nino.

Professor Prieto said the site showed how, in Peru, history can be just around the corner. Adult footprints, children's and llama footprints have been documented showing that a group of children and llamas was led to the site from the north and the south edges of the bluff, meeting in the center of the site, where they would have been sacrificed and buried.

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The team uncovered evidence of "the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas - and likely in world history".

Numerous children had their faces smeared with a red cinnabar-based pigment - most likely as part of the sacrificial ritual.

Evidence of a dried layer of mud in part of the site leads researchers to believe that the killings were done in one single event and may have been done as a response to severe flooding that hit the coastline, which is "generally arid". So this sacrificial event raises a big question - What could have motivated the Chimú to commit such an act? And the young llamas? The llamas were less than 18 months old, buried facing east looking toward the Andes mountains.

As for the llamas - Verano explained that these are an extremely important animal in both ancient and present cultures in Peru and Bolivia. "Human life was the most valuable, followed by llamas and then guinea pigs", he said.

High sea temperatures caused by the El Nino effect would have disrupted marine fisheries in the area, while coastal flooding could have overwhelmed the Chimu's extensive infrastructure of agricultural canals, the publication said. And the event was indeed a ritual sacrifice.

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