140 Remains of Children Found in Peru
Archaeologists have discovered the remains of more than 140 children on the northern coast of Peru. The discovery is likely to be categorized as the largest single mass child sacrifice event in human history.
It is estimated that the sacrifice occurred some 550 years ago. According to reports, over 200 baby llamas were also found alongside the children.
In an exclusive report, National Geographic discovered that a majority of the remains ranged from eight to 14 years old, while other remains are estimated to have been as young as five years old.
The site of this sacrifice was once the capital of the Chimú civilization, the second largest empire in the Andes after the Incan empire.
Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University are the archaeologists spearheading the investigation. They are working jointly with the National Geographic Society.
“I, for one, never expected it,” said Verano, who has worked in the region for more than three decades. “And I don't think anyone else would have, either.”
The Aztecs, Mayans, and Incas had numerous documented incidents of human sacrifice, yet the scale and magnitude of the Chimú sacrifice are unprecedented, not only for the western hemisphere but for the entire world.
In 2011, the remains of 40 children and 74 llamas were initially uncovered during the excavation of a 3,500-year-old temple. The site of discovery is known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas.
The remains of both the children and animals show clear evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations. According to National Geographic, archaeologists surmise that the victims’ chests were cut open and then pulled apart, perhaps in order to remove the heart.
“It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic,” Verano says. The lack of hesitant, or “false start,” cuts suggests that they were made by trained hands.
Human sacrifice has been practiced all around the world during various time periods but according to Joseph Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, most societal models created for human sacrifice are based on the killing of adults.
“I think it’s definitely harder to explain child sacrifice,” Watts added. “Also, at a personal level.”
Some scientists speculate that climate change could have been the explanation for why the ritual sacrifice occurred. The investigation notes that during the 1400s, Peru was slammed by torrential rains related to El Nino. This might have caused the Chimu people to make a desperate sacrifice as the rains were destroying the very crops they relied on to survive.