Evidence of the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice by members of the sprawling ancient Chimú Empire where up to 140 children and 200 young llamas were killed.
The children were between five to 14 years, according to reports.
While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in scientific excavations, this discovery in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is “unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world”.
MASS KILLING: The remains of three adults were also found in close proximity
BRUTAL: More than 140 children of the Chimu Empire may have had there hearts ripped out
“I, for one, never expected it”
The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to ribs, suggesting the that the victims’ chests were cut open and pulled apart, “perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart”, noted the publication.
The remains of three adults—a man and two women—were found in close proximity of the children and animals.
Signs of blunt-force trauma to the head and a lack of grave goods with the adult bodies lead researchers to suspect that they may have played a role in the sacrifice event.
SACRIFICE: up to 140 children and 200 young llamas were killed
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The sacrifice site, formally known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is located on a low bluff and less than half a mile from Chan Chan, the ancient Chimú administrative centre.
Only the Inca commanded a larger empire than the Chimú in pre-Columbian South America, with the superior Inca forces putting an end to the Chimú Empire around AD 1475.
Scientific investigations led by Gabriel Prieto of the National University of Trujillo in Peru and John Verano of Tulane University in New Orleans are currently ongoing.
Mr Verano said: “I, for one, never expected it. And I don’t think anyone else would have, either.”