National Geographic published a fascinating and harrowing article earlier this year detailing the site of a major child sacrifice of almost 300 kids by the Chimú tribe located in what is now known as Peru. Researchers say the children were sacrificed to the gods in order to prevent more floods thought caused by the El Nino storms that devastated the Peruvian coastline. Environmentalists would have no problems conducting similar sacrifices of children as evidenced by their No Pressure campaign.
“What made this ancient society sacrifice its own children?”, by Kristin Romey, National Geographic
Some 500 years ago, the Chimú in what is now Peru ritually killed hundreds of their young in the largest mass child sacrifice events known in world history. Now archaeologists are trying to understand why.
THE YOUNG VICTIM lies in a shallow grave in a vacant lot strewn with trash. It’s the Friday before Easter here in Huanchaquito, a hamlet on the north coast of Peru.
The throb of dance music, drifting up from seaside cafés a few hundred yards to the west, sounds eerily like a pulsing heart. It’s accompanied by the soft chuf, chuf of shovels as workers clear away broken glass, plastic bottles, and spent shotgun shells to reveal the outline of a tiny burial pit cut into an ancient layer of mud.
Two college students—archaeologists in training, wearing hospital scrubs and masks—splay on their stomachs on either side of the grave and begin digging with trowels.
The first thing to appear is the crest of a child’s skull, topped with a thatch of black hair. Switching from trowels to paintbrushes, the excavators carefully sweep away the loose sand, exposing the rest of the skull and revealing skeletal shoulders poking through a coarse cotton shroud. Eventually the remains of a tiny, golden-furred llama come into view, curled alongside the child.
Gabriel Prieto, a professor of archaeology from the National University of Trujillo, peers into the grave and nods. “Ninety-five,” he announces. He’s keeping a running tally of victims, and this one, labeled E95, is the 95th dug up since he first began investigating the mass burial site in 2011. The grim count from this and a second sacrifice site nearby will ultimately add up to 269 children between the ages of five and 14 and three adults. All of the victims perished more than 500 years ago in carefully orchestrated acts of ritual sacrifice that may be unprecedented in world history.
“This is something completely unexpected,” exclaims Prieto, shaking his head in bewilderment. The words have become a kind of mantra as the archaeologist and father struggles to make sense of the harrowing discovery at a site called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas. In our time and culture, the violent death of even one child rends all but the most callous hearts, and the specter of mass murder horrifies every healthy mind. And so, we wonder: What desperate circumstances might account for an act that’s unthinkable to us today?
PHOTO CREDIT: By Diego Duran – Madrid Biblioteca, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30500043