An archaeologist works on a excavation site where human remains dating more than 1,500 years were found, in the northern coastal town of Huanchaco, near the mass child sacrafice. (CELSO ROLDAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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Why Were More Than 140 Children Ritually Killed in Peru 500 Years Ago?

The ancient mass child sacrifice may be the world’s largest.

Archaeologists have found evidence of the world’s single largest incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas — and likely in world history — on Peru’s northern coast. More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed during an event some 550 years ago on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, right near what was then the capital of the Chimú Empire, reports National Geographic. Scientific investigations led by Gabriel of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University are ongoing. Incidents of human sacrifice have been recorded among the Aztec, Maya and Inca and documented in modern scientific excavations, but the discovery of such a large-scale child sacrifice even in the pre-Columbian Chimú civilization, which we know little about, is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world, writes Nat Geo. 

“I, for one, never expected it,” said Verano, a physical anthropologist who has worked in the region for more than three decades, to Nat Geo. “And I don’t think anyone else would have, either.”

At its peak, the Chimú Empire controlled a 600-mile-long territory along the Pacific coast. The sacrifice site, formally known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is just a thousand feet from the sea. The skeletal remains of both the children and the animals show cuts to the sternum and rib dislocations. This means that the victims’ chests were cut open and pulled apart. The remains of three adults were found close to the children and animals, with signs of blunt-force trauma to the head.

Read the full story at National Geographic