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Archaeologists probe Peru site of largest known mass child sacrifice

Archaeologists have unearthed the grisly evidence of what could be the largest mass child sacrifice event ever recorded.

After locals alerted experts in 2011 to human remains found on a low bluff on the northern coast of Peru, an emergency dig at the site revealed dozens of ancient bodies belonging to human children and juvenile llamas.

Over the course of the next five years, archaeologists discovered hundreds more.

All in all, the excavations at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas uncovered more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 young llamas by 2016, according to an exclusive report from National Geographic – and, markings on their sternums and ribs suggest their chests were cut open and their hearts pulled out.

The exhaustive, years-long investigation of the sacrifice site paints a gruesome picture of the events that unfolded roughly 550 years ago under the sprawling pre-Columbian Chimú Empire. The experts say all of the children and animals sacrificed in the horrific ritual were killed with an efficient, ‘systematic’ cut across the chest. Their hearts were likely then removed

Radiocarbon dating of rope and textiles found at the site suggests the ritual took place between 1400 and 1450 AD, according to National Geographic.

The experts say all of the children and animals sacrificed in the horrific ritual were killed with an efficient, ‘systematic’ cut across the chest.

Most of the children – both boys and girls – were between the ages of 8 and 12, though some were as old as 14.

The youngest were only about 5 years old.

While the children were buried facing westward, toward the sea, the llamas – all less than 18 months old – were buried facing the opposite way, toward the Andes, according to National Geographic.

Many of their faces were smeared with red pigment made from cinnabar. 

The exhaustive, years-long investigation of the sacrifice site paints a gruesome picture of the events that unfolded roughly 550 years ago under the sprawling pre-Columbian Chimú Empire.

By analyzing ancient footprints found at the site, the experts say the children and llamas were likely led in a procession from the north and south, to converge on the center, National Geographic reports.

And, not all went willingly.

Amid the footprints of sandaled adults, dogs, barefoot children, and the young llamas, the researchers also found deep markings that suggest some of the animals resisted and were pulled forcibly.

While the children were buried facing westward, toward the sea, the llamas – all less than 18 months old – were buried facing the opposite way, toward the Andes, according to National Geographic. The remains of both a child (left) and baby llama (right) can be seen above

While the children were buried facing westward, toward the sea, the llamas – all less than 18 months old – were buried facing the opposite way, toward the Andes, according to National Geographic. The remains of both a child (left) and baby llama (right) can be seen above

Hundreds of years ago when the mass killing took place, the site was covered in a layer of mud – and, some of the bodies of both children and animals were simply left there instead of being buried in the prepared pits.

While it isn’t the first large-scale child sacrifice ever found, even the veteran archaeologists were shocked by the nightmarish scene they unearthed at the ancient Chimú site in Peru.

Previously, the largest recorded sacrificial event of this kind was seen at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, where 42 children were killed.

‘I, for one, never expected it,’ physical anthropologist John Verano of Tulane University told National Geographic of the gruesome discovery.

‘And I don’t think anyone else would have, either.’

After locals alerted experts in 2011 to human remains found on a low bluff on the northern coast of Peru, an emergency dig at the site revealed dozens of ancient bodies belonging to human children and juvenile llamas. Over the course of the next five years, archaeologists discovered hundreds more

All in all, the excavations at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas uncovered more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 young llamas by 2016, according to an exclusive report from National Geographic – and, markings on their sternums and ribs suggest their chests were cut open and their hearts pulled out

After locals alerted experts in 2011 to human remains found on a low bluff on the northern coast of Peru, an emergency dig at the site revealed dozens of ancient bodies belonging to human children and juvenile llamas. Over the course of the next five years, archaeologists discovered hundreds more

WHO WERE THE CHIMU PEOPLE OF ANCIENT PERU?

The Chimu were a pre-Incan culture that emerged out of the remnants of the Moche culture along the coast of Peru in 900AD. It was the largest pre-Columbian Empire in Peru until the Inca. 

The Chimu people lived in a strip of desert, 20 to 100 miles (30 to 160 km) wide, between the Pacific and the Andes.  

It’s thought that the Chimú culture arose in the first half of the 14th century, developing a complex civilization with different levels of social hierarchy.

They build cities and large irrigation systems, according to Britannica.

The culture was dominated by agriculture, though they also became known for their stunning textiles and pottery, now famed for their black ceramics and intricately worked precious metals.

The Chimu are thought to have survived by fishing and worshipped the moon, believing it to be more powerful than the sun.

Archaeologists believe they practised ritual sacrifice.

Around 1470 AD, the Inca ruler Tupac Inca Yupanqui conquered the Chimu. The Inca subsequently absorbed many of their practices, including political organization, irrigation systems, and road engineering.

Yupanqui’s rule was short lived, however, as the Spanish conquered the region in 1534 AD. 

While the ritual sacrifice of adults has been studied somewhat extensively, the ritual murder of children is a more difficult topic to tackle, the experts explain.

It’s impossible to know for sure why the children were slaughtered in this way, but experts say it may have been a last-ditch appeal to put an end to heavy rains and flooding.

Evidence of ancient mud at the site suggests northern Peru may have been subjected to severe weather driven by an El-Niño event, according to National Geographic.

The team is now conducting DNA and isotopic analyses on the remains to better understand the lives of the victims.



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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