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30 April 2018, 11:09 | Lowell Little
Largest Known Child Mass Sacrifice Of 140 Children Linked To El Niño
Archeologists in Peru unearthed the remains of more than 140 children killed in a mass sacrifice 550 years ago Thursday, claiming it may be the largest human sacrifice in history.
The macabre discovery was made on a low bluff just a thousand feet from the Pacific Ocean, amid cinder block residential compounds in La Libertad outside Trujillo, Peru's third-largest city.
The sacrifice site, once known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, was part of the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú Empire and is located near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chan Chan, the Chimú administrative centre.
Until this discovery, the largest occurrence of child sacrifice was the ritual murder of 42 children at Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán at what is now the centre of Mexico City.
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. "And I don't think anyone else would have, either", physical anthropologist John Verano, from Tulane University Verano, said in a statement. The excavations continued through 2016, and resulted in the discovery of more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 llamas, according to National Geographic. The child llamas have been buried dealing with east, towards the excessive peaks of the Andes.
The children's skulls are stained with red, evidence that they were sacrificed in ritual killings, as the pigment was used in ceremonies.
Peru's northern coast, where the children and baby llamas were found has been under excavation since 2011. Initially, they found remains of 42 children and 76 llamas at a 3,500-year-old temple.
"It is ritual killing and it's very systematic", Verano told Nat Geo. Based on examination of the skeletal remains of the children and animals, all had their chests cut open, possibly as a means of getting at the heart. They also found three adults found had blunt-force trauma to the head and no grave, leading scientist to believe they, too, were part of the sacrifice.
"People sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them", Haagen Klaus, one of the researchers involved in the dig, told the publication.
In the layers of sediment at the site, researchers found evidence that the region had experienced severe rainfall and flooding around the same time as the sacrifices, likely due to elevated sea temperatures from an El Niño event. "They may have seen that [adult sacrifice] was ineffective". There are even skid marks in the sediment indicating places where the sacrificial victims were reluctant to participate. This could be the biggest-ever mass sacrifice of children in world history, according to the evidence.
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