The victims appear to have been part of a ritual sacrifice that took place almost 550 years ago when the Chimú Empire ruled the area, archaeologists said.
Archaeologists in Peru have uncovered what could be the site of the largest known instance of child sacrifice in the Americas, and perhaps even the world.
The site is formally called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas and falls within a residential neighborhood. The delay between the initial discovery and actual examination of the site was held up until the global, interdisciplinary team, led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, were able to get sufficient funding for. a proper excavation. The llamas were less than 18 months and were buried facing the Andes mountains on the east.
The remains of a male and two female adults were also found nearby with blunt-force trauma to the head, suggesting they had been involved in the ceremony before being "dispatched".
Researchers suggest that the mass sacrifice of children may have been an attempt to appease the gods at a time the arid coastline was being battered by "severe rain and flooding".
Based on evidence from layers of dried mud, the report states it's believed that all the human and animal sacrifices took place at the same time.
Joseph Watts, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said, while mass adult sacrifices can be explained that they were a crucial part of development of complex societies - and how elite social classes began the stratification and control of populations - "it's definitely harder to explain child sacrifice".
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