An archaeological dig in Peru that has been going on since 2011 may have unearthed the largest, single mass child sacrifice in the history of humanity, National Geographic reports.
The excavation, conducted in 2016, revealed the remains of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas that had been sacrificed around A.D. 1450 near the capital of the Chimu Empire, an area that is now the city of Trujillo on Peru’s northern coast.
This is by far the largest child sacrificial burial site ever uncovered in the Americas, and quite possibly the entire world, revealed archaeologists from the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and Tulane University, Louisiana.
The 140 sacrificed children were 5 to 14 years old at the time of the ritualistic human sacrifice that cut their lives short. Most of them were aged 8 to 12, disclosed the archaeologists, who note that the children were mostly buried facing west, towards the sea. 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.
All the skeletons showed signs of cuts to the sternum and rib dislocation, which points to the ancient sacrificial practice of heart removal, performed by cutting open the victims’ chests.
Although human sacrifices were regularly practiced by the Aztec, Maya, and Inca civilizations, the pre-Columbian Chimu civilization — of which not much is known, notes National Geographic — yielded no previous evidence of such a large-scale child sacrifice event.
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 name of the archaeological site, “Huanchaquito-Las Llamas,” is already well-known from a previous discovery of child and llama remains in 2011, notes Fox News.
At the time, archaeologists uncovered the skeletons of 42 children and 76 young llamas at the burial site. By 2016, the number of skeletons had grown, reaching the staggering figures recently revealed.
“I, for one, never expected it. And I don’t think anyone else would have, either,” physical anthropologist John Verano, from Tulane University Verano, said in a statement.
Verano is part of the international archaeological team that is still investigating the mass burial site and that plans to submit a scientific report on this bewildering discovery to a peer-reviewed, scientific journal.
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, which now is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Aside from the astounding number of child and llama skeletons, the 7,500-square-foot site also yielded the remains of three adults, which had been less ceremoniously entombed and which experts believe may have been involved in the mass sacrifice. The three adult skeletons showed signs of blunt-force trauma to the head and were buried without any ceremonial objects.
In addition, archaeologists also discovered rope and textiles, which have been radiocarbon dated to between 1400 and 1450.