The skeletal remains of at least 56 children were found in Pampa La Cruz, a village in Peru’s province of Trujillo. The children were sacrificed to the pagan gods of the Chimú culture, which existed in the South American republic from 1100 to 1400 AD. The sacrificed children were found in a sector of approximately 800 square meters. Scientists believe that the skeletons were buried during a period about  1200 to 1400 AD. They were first uncovered in early May but not revealed to the media until Thursday. Along with the human remains, the skeletons of about 30 young llamas were also found.

Gabriel Prieto Burmester, the director the Huanchaco Archaeological Program, told local media of his theory that his discovery may be “a human sacrificial site without precedent in world history.” He told El Comercio newspaper “There is no other place on the planet where there are as many burials of this nature.” He noted that in nearby Las Llamas -- a settlement in Huanchaquito located a few miles from Pampa La Cruz -- archaeologists found the skeletons of 140 children and 200 young llamas. Prieto said he believes that the children were killed and their hearts subsequently removed.

Prieto theorizes that the most recent discovery may be related to a ritual of propitiation to forestall the effects of “El Nino” -- warm currents in the eastern Pacific Ocean that can occur around December and which can negatively affect local fish stocks. He said that it was believed that an enormous sacrifice of human life would eliminate the negative effects of El Nino, which also bring significant rains and devastating floods. He pointed out that sediments left by rain have been found at the site. 

In 2011, children playing in the sand dunes less than a mile from Chan Chan -- the ancient capital of the Chimu culture -- found human bones near the modern city of Trujillo. John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University, joined Prieto to lead the dig. In April, Verano told National Geographic that they found the first evidence of child sacrifice by the Chimú and one of the largest discoveries of child sacrifice anywhere in the world. “In most societies, human sacrifice is the most precious gift you can give if you need to make an offering to the gods,” said Verano, according to Tulane University. “It’s some kind of event that happened, some kind of crisis where they felt they had to sacrifice a large number of children and llamas. We may never know why they did this but it’s important to document it.”

Verano said that the children were wrapped in cloth, but were not accompanied by pottery or metal objects. He said that the skeletons showed evidence that the children’s hearts were cut out of their chests. “The evidence shows that they were sacrificed.” The sex of the individual skeletons has yet to be determined. “There is no evidence that these were sick children,” Verano said, “but they were enjoying good health, which leads one to believe that they were middle or upper class. However, there were no artifacts, offerings or necklaces to indicate social differentiation.”



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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