Evidence of world's biggest child sacrifice found in Peru

Evidence of world's biggest child sacrifice found in Peru

Archaeologists in Peru have found remains of more than 140 children who were sacrificed around 550 years ago as part of a ritual, National Geographic reported on Thursday.

The cliff is located just outside the northwestern coastal city of Trujillo, Peru's third largest city which today has 800,000 inhabitants.

Researchers also found footprints at the site suggesting the children were marched to their deaths.

"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 Chimu civilization is unprecedented in the Americas - if not in the entire world", National Geographic said.

Ongoing scientific investigations into the Peru site, formally called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, are being carried out by an worldwide team funded by the National Geographic Society.

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"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic", said John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University.

In addition, near the city of Trujillo also were found the remains of 200 young lamas who, apparently, was sacrificed on the same day and kids.

It's estimated that the children ranged from about 5 to 14 years old, with the majority between the ages of 8 and 12, according to the magazine. It seems the children's chests were cut open and their ribs dislocated in order to remove their hearts. The remains of three adults were found close to the children and animals, with signs of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Ropes and textiles from the graves were radiocarbon dated to between 1400 and 1450.

The llamas, which suffered the same fate, were all younger than 18 months and buried facing east towards the Andes mountains.

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It's thought the ritual was a single event, which if confirmed would be the largest single mass child murder event known of in the world.

Professor Verano said the children's skeletons contained lesions on their breastbones, which were probably made by a ceremonial knife.

Along with the children's remains, archaeologists uncovered the bodies of one man and two women near the sacrificial site.

"When people hear about what happened and the scale of it, the first thing they always ask is: why", Gabriel Prieto, the other lead researcher, told National Geographic. "They may have seen that [adult sacrifice] was ineffective".

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".

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