Peru child sacrifice discovery may be largest in history
Peru child sacrifice discovery may be largest in history
The remains had been preserved in dry sand for more than 500 years. Gabriel Prieto National Geographic
29 April, 2018, 00:44
Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered what could be the site of the largest known instance of child sacrifice in the Americas, and perhaps even the world. The next largest was the ritual murder of 42 children in Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, now Mexico City.
Dr Quilter is 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 Chimu empire the sacrificed youth came from.
Researchers also found footprints at the site suggesting the children were marched to their deaths.
Joseph Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said, while mass adult sacrifices can be explained that they were a crucial part of development of complex societies - and how elite social classes began the stratification and control of populations - "it's definitely harder to explain child sacrifice".
Current research in Peru, officially called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, conducted by an global team funded by the National geographic society.
The first remains were discovered in 2011, when an worldwide team led by John Verano and Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto began the excavations.
Archaeologists unearthed the remains of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas from what appeared to have been a ritual sacrifice that took place 550 years ago on a bluff along the northern coast, National Geographicreported Thursday.
The children range in age from 5 to 14, had their faces smeared with red pigment and were buried facing out to sea.
The cuts to both the children and llamas' skeletal remains suggest their chests were cut open.
Peru's northern coast, where the children and baby llamas were found has been under excavation since 2011.
"I, for one, never expected it", Verano told the magazine.
The children were reportedly buried facing the sea.
Along with the children's remains, archaeologists uncovered the bodies of one man and two women near the sacrificial site.
The researchers are now trying to figure out why these children were sacrificed.
Gabriel Prieto, the other lead researcher, said: "When people hear about what happened and the scale of it, the first thing they always ask is why". They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices. According to National Geographic, "The investigators believe all of the human and animal victims were ritually killed in a single event, based on evidence from a dried mud layer found in the eastern, least disturbed part of the 7,500-square-foot site".
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