Chimú Mass Child Sacrifice

Archaeologists discover the largest single
mass child sacrifice event in human history

In addition to our last report regarding child sacrifices in Peru during the Chimú civilization, a shocking new discovery has archaeologists rethinking the bizarre rituals that took place. More than 140 children were sacrificed at about the same time in Peru's northern coastal region, about 550 years ago.

The discovery was made in Huanchaquito, near modern-day Trujillo, which lies near the centre of the ancient Chimú civilization. More than 200 young llamas were sacrificed alongside the children -all of which were killed in a tramatically shocking single event.

"I, for one, never expected it," John Verano, one of the lead researchers, stated. "I don't think anyone else would have, either." In 2011, the first discovery of human sacrifice victims at the site, known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, uncovered the remains of 40 victims and 74 llamas during the excavation of a 3,500-year-old temple. The final tally announced of 140 children show that the victims were aged between 5 and 14, although most were between 8 and 12 years old.

The children are known to be victims of human sacrifice because of cut marks to the bones, including the sternum, the bone in the center of the chest. Many ribs were also damaged which may indicate the heart was removed. The children and llamas were buried together in the wet mud, around the year 1450. In addition, many of the children were daubed with a bright red pigment made from cinnabar which was most likely a part of the sacrificial ritual.

The llamas, which suffered the same fate, were all younger than 18 months and buried facing east towards the Andes mountains. Gabriel Prieto, the other lead researcher, said: "When people hear about what happened and the scale of it, the first thing they always ask is, ‘why?’" The dig may provide a hint to that question. A layer of mud in which the victims were buried could have been caused by "severe rain and flooding" in the usually dry area which was possibly caused by an extreme weather event such as El Niño.

Such an event could have disrupted marine fisheries in the area, while coastal flooding could have overwhelmed the Chimú's extensive infrastructure of agricultural canals. The children may have been sacrificed when sacrificing adults did nothing to ward off the adverse climate events, with the sacrifices being a method used to appease the Gods.

"People sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them," said bioarchaeologist Haagen Klaus. "They may have seen that adult sacrifice was ineffective. The rains kept coming. Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim." The Chimú, who worshipped a moon deity, were conquered by the Inca civilization just a few decades later. About 50 years after that, the Spanish arrived in South America and conquered the Inca empire in turn.