500 Years Ago, This Civilisation Sacrificed Hundreds Of Children And Llamas And No One Knows Why

500 Years Ago, This Civilisation Sacrificed Hundreds Of Children And Llamas And No One Knows Why

Half a millennium ago, a Peruvian civilisation, the Chimús, are said to have sacrificed hundreds of children and llamas… for reasons that are still confusing archaeologists to this day.

According to archaeologists, this is the traces and remnants of one of the biggest child sacrifices ever to be discovered in America, maybe even in the history of humanity. On the Northern coast of Peru, more than 140 children and 200 young llamas have been discovered dead, and it’s likely that they were sacrificed during a ceremony that took place 550 years ago. This ritual massacre is a sign of the Chimú civilisation.

Llamas

Although the Aztecs and the Mayans have a reputation for their bloody human sacrifices, this event studied by Gabriel Prieto, John Verano and their team is unparalleled and unique for archaeologists.

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‘I, for one, never expected it,’ says Verano, a physical anthropologist. ‘And I don’t think anyone else would have either. Researchers are currently working on publishing a report that will detail their discoveries.

The location of the sacrifice, known to researchers as ‘Las Llamas’, is located not far from the Chan Chan site, which is a registered UNESCO world heritage site. The site is home to the former administrative centre for the Chimú civilisation, who reached their peak during the XVth century. The Chimús are said to have been conquered by the Incas in 1470, fifty years before the Spanish colonies arrived in the region.

A puzzle for archaeologists

‘Las Llamas’ has already found themselves in our headlines in 2011 when the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas were discovered during an excavation led by Prieto. Since then, further excavations that were carried out in the area until 2016 have revealed more than 140 children between the ages of 5 and 14, and 200 llamas under 18 months old, as well as textiles and rope dating back to the first half of the XVth century. The state of their bodies indicate that their rib cages had been opened up, possibly to make removing their hearts easier.

It is thought that the victims were led to the site during a procession before being sacrificed and buried there. Although experts think that the bodies were amounted during just one singular ritual event, they still aren’t sure what this means. Although adult sacrifices aren’t rare in South America, sacrificing children, and particularly on such a scale as this, is unusual and will need to be studied in more detail by Prieto and his team.

Check out the video above for more on the mystifying history of 'Las Llamas'... 

• Anna Wilkins
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