An worldwide team of scientists funded by the National Geographic Society has discovered what appears to be the largest instance of mass child sacrifice in human history on a site known as "Huanchaquito-Las Llamas", on the northern coast of Peru. Their evidence that the killings were part of a ritual sacrifice include the fact that the victims' chests were systemically "cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart", evidently by well-practiced hands. Majority were aged eight to 12, disclosed the archaeologists, who note that the children were mostly buried facing west, towards the sea.
"I, for one, never expected it", said John Verano, an anthropologist with decades of experience in the region.
According to Prieto, researchers also found footprints that have survived rain and erosion and he said that the small footprints indicate the children were marched to their deaths from the ancient city of Las Llamas - Chan Chan, for about approximately 1 mile. Items found in the burials are radiocarbon dated to between 1400 and 1450, toward the end of the Chimú Empire's rule, before they were conquered by the Incas.
By 2016, the remains of 140 children and 200 young llamas had been discovered at the site. Human sacrifice has taken place in every corner of the world at one time or another in our history, although the mass sacrifice of children is very rare, actually nearly unheard of to most scientists.
Quilter is heading a team of scientists who will analyze 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. "And I do not think anyone else would have, either".
While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas-if not in the entire world.
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". "This clearly was a different type of ritual-just children in the sand", said Verano. "Also, at a personal level". Being an agricultural economy that depended on llamas for meat and the wool they made their clothing with, suggests the animals were also highly valued.
"People sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them", National Geographic quoted Haagen Klaus, a professor of anthropology at George Mason University, as saying. He suggests that when adult sacrifices did not bring the desired outcome, out of desperation the people may have turned to their most precious belongings; their children. The llamas, all younger than 18 months, were buried facing the Andes to the East.
As for the llamas - Verano explained that these are an extremely important animal in both ancient and present cultures in Peru and Bolivia. And the event was indeed a ritual sacrifice. "Human life was the most valuable, followed by llamas and then guinea pigs", he said.