Archaeologists say that skeletal remains of more than 140 children and 200 baby llamas they found in Peru could be proof of the largest child sacrifice in history.
The children and baby llamas sacrifice are predicted to have taken place around 550 years ago at the pre-Columbian burial site known as Las Llamas.
Following its findings, the scientific team hopes to know who these kids were and where did they come from.
Largest Child Sacrifice In History Discovered
The skeletal remains were found to have belonged to children aging from 5 to 14 years old. The llamas, on the other hand, were believed to be not more than 18 months old.
The team, headed by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, found that both the children and baby llamas suffered cuts to their sternum and they also have dislocation on their ribs. Their chests were believed to have been ripped apart to specifically get their hearts.
Their faces were also painted with a red mixture made from cinnabar, a bright red mineral consisting of mercury sulfide. The archaeologists supposed that it had been done as part of the ritual before the sacrifice took place.
The skeletal remains were found to be facing opposite directions. The children were buried facing west, out to the sea while the baby llamas were facing east, seemingly looking at the high peaks of the Andes. The team also concluded that the children and llamas were sacrificed in one ritual session.
There were also skeletal remains of three adults found near where the children and llamas were buried. It is thought that these adults were also sacrificed.
Why Were The Children Sacrificed?
Prieto believes the children were offering to the gods to stop the floods brought by the El Niño.
"They were possibly offering the gods the most important thing they had as a society, and the most important thing is children because they represent future, explains Prieto.
As for the baby llamas, the people might have sacrificed them as well because they were also an integral part of the ancient community, being the only animals that carry loads for them.
This theory was echoed by Haagen Klaus, a professor of anthropology at George Mason University. Klaus is not a member of the team involved in the recent discovery, however, he was at the helm of a separate excavation done at another site located in the north of Huanchaco.
He inferred societies that lived along the northern Peruvian coast were compelled to sacrifice children because of the destruction brought by El Niño. He supposed that at the time, people were left to kill children when their sacrifice of the adults was futile to attract a more favorable weather condition.
"The rains kept coming. Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim," Klaus says.
Meanwhile, the team of archaeologists, led by Prieto and Verano, will continue their investigation around Huanchaco to find more sacrificial sites. Their study is supported by grants from the National Geographic Society.