Skeletons of 140 child sacrifice victims found in Peru

The remains had been preserved in dry sand for more than 500 years. Gabriel Prieto  National Geographic

The remains had been preserved in dry sand for more than 500 years. Gabriel Prieto National Geographic

The Chimu Culture of Peru The size of the child sacrifice event dwarfs the ritual killings of 42 children previously uncovered in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitl√°n, now Mexico City, points out National Geographic, and it must have been very gruesome.

The children were sacrificed with 200 llamas on top of a cliff on Peru's northern coast in a region that was ruled by the Chimu Empire until around 1475.

By 2016, the remains of 140 children and 200 young llamas had been discovered at the site.

This is by far the largest child sacrificial burial site ever uncovered in the Americas, and quite possibly the entire world, revealed archaeologists from the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and Tulane University, Louisiana.

The archaeological site, formally known as "Huanchaquito-Las Llamas", is located less than half a mile from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chan Chan.

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The first remains were discovered in 2011, when an worldwide team led by John Verano and Peruvian explorer Gabriel Prieto began the excavations.

The discovery, by an global team funded by the National Geographic Society, was made on Peru's northern coast at a site called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas.

The children's bodies were buried facing west, towards the Pacific Ocean, while the llamas were buried facing east, toward the Andes mountains.

Scientists first caught wind of the remains in 2011 when local residents told archaeologist Gabriel Prieto, a Huanchaquito native, human bones were showing up in the dunes near their home after the dunes eroded from the wind and the sea.

Excavation of the site started in 2011, but the find has now been made public by National Geographic, which helped finance the dig.

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In addition, archaeologists also discovered rope and textiles, which have been radiocarbon dated to between 1400 and 1450. The sacrificed Llamas on the other hand, were less 18 months of age.

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.

The researchers are now trying to figure out why these children were sacrificed.

Mr Quilter is part of a team which will analyse DNA from the children's remains to see if they were related and to find out where they came from.

"It makes you wonder how many other sites like this there may be out there in the area for future research", Prieto told National Geographic. According to National Geographic, "The investigators believe all of the human and animal victims were ritually killed in a single event, based on evidence from a dried mud layer found in the eastern, least disturbed part of the 7,500-square-foot site".

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