Published: Sun, April 29, 2018
Life&Culture | By Peggy Hughes

Largest mass child sacrifice event may be tied to El Nino

Largest mass child sacrifice event may be tied to El Nino

The largest known child ritual killing site in the world - with corpses of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas - was discovered by archaeologists in northern coast of the Huanchaco district, Peru.

In an email, Dr Quilter said the site provides "concrete evidence" that large scale sacrifices of children occurred in ancient Peru.

At the time of the supposed sacrifice, the area was under the little-known Chimú Empire.

Other South American civilizations, like the Incas and the Aztec, practiced ritual human sacrifice, but archaeologists have never found children's bodies in such a high concentration before.

The site is formally called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas and falls within a residential neighborhood.

The team of researchers, which includes Tulane University Anthropology professor John Verano, shared their findings in a National Geographic exclusive that was published Thursday (April 26).

The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, suggesting that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart, the publication said.

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.

The burial site has been under excavation since 2011, but a report on the findings was only released by National Geographic this week.

The llamas, which suffered the same fate, were all younger than 18 months and buried facing east towards the Andes mountains. Radiocarbon dating of ropes left around numerous llama's necks dates the event to 1450 AD, about 20 years before the Chimu empire was conquered by the Incan empire.

The remains of three adults - a man and two women - were also found near the mass grave of the children, with evidence of blunt force trauma on their skulls.

Researchers and anthropologists are now trying to understand the motivation behind the large-scale sacrifice, and why the burial pits combined children with baby llamas. "It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic", Verano said. Radiocarbon dating pinpointed the date of the supposed sacrifice between 1400 and 1450. Families believed their child would become deified and they were usually sacrificed around the age of five. They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices.

The layer of mud, which held fossilized footprints of the children and the llamas, suggests there was severe rain and floods on the typically dry coastline, which is often affected by El-Nino, the researchers said.

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