The remains of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas that were sacrificed 550 years ago have been found on Peru’s northern coast, National Geographic reported. The remains were found on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, once home to the capital of the Chimú Empire.
An international team led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are continuing.
Human sacrifices carried out by the Aztec, Maya and Incas of the Western Hemisphere have been documented, but this discovery is unprecedented, National Geographic reported.
“I, for one, never expected it,” Verano told National Geographic. "And I don't think anyone else would have, either."
The sacrifice site, known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is located on a low bluff just a thousand feet from the ocean. At its height, the Chimú Empire controlled a 600-mile-long territory along the Pacific coast and interior valleys from the modern Peru-Ecuador border to Lima.
Huanchaquito-Las Llamas made news in 2011 when the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas were found. Prieto was excavating a 3,500-year-old temple near the sacrifice site when local residents told him about human remains at nearby coastal dunes, National Geographic reported.
When the excavations had ended, archaeologists found more than 140 sets of children’s remains and 200 juvenile llamas. Rope and textiles found near the remains were dated between 1400 and 1450, National Geographic reported.
Skeletal remains showed evidence of cuts in the sternum and rib dislocations, which suggests the victims’ chests were cut open and their hearts were likely removed.
The 140 children ranged in age from about 5 to 14; the llamas were less than 18 months old, National Geographic reported.