Largest mass child sacrifice event may be tied to El Nino

Remains of 140 children who died in the 16th century, point to largest child sacrifice in history

Remains of 140 children who died in the 16th century, point to largest child sacrifice in history

The excavations continued through 2016, and resulted in the discovery of more than 140 sets of child remains and 200 juvenile llamas, according to National Geographic.

At the time of the supposed sacrifice, the area was under the little-known Chimú Empire.

"I, for one, never expected it", said Verano, a physical anthropologist who has worked in the region for more than three decades, to Nat Geo.

The burial site was apparently built by the ancient Chimu empire.

The site of the discovery - Huanchaquito-Las Llamas - first grabbed headlines in 2011 when remains of 42 children and 76 llamas were found during the excavation of a 3,500-year-old temple.

The skeletal remains of both children and animals show evidence of cuts to the sternum as well as rib dislocations, suggesting that the victims' chests were cut open and pulled apart, perhaps to facilitate the removal of the heart, the publication said.

It is estimated that the children's age ranged from about five to 14 years.

Human sacrifice has taken place in every corner of the world at one time or another in our history, although the mass sacrifice of children is very rare, actually nearly unheard of to most scientists.

It is thought the children were sacrificed as floods caused by the El Nino weather pattern ravaged the Peruvian coastline. Based on the layers of mud at the site, archeologists believe the sacrificial ritual was a single event.

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He said it's impossible to know what really happened without a time machine but the discovery contributes significantly to modern knowledge on ritual violence and variations of human sacrifice in the Andes.

"People sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them", National Geographic quoted Haagen Klaus, a professor of anthropology at George Mason University, as saying. "Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim".

Mr Quilter is part of a team which will analyse DNA from the children's remains to see if they were related and to find out where they came from.

"But it's actually a much more complicated attempt at negotiation with those supernatural forces and their manipulation by the living".

The researchers are now trying to figure out why these children were sacrificed.

The site was located on top of a cliff facing the Pacific Ocean in La Libertad, a northern region where the Chimu civilization arose, an ancient pre-Columbian people who worshipped the moon.

"Las Llamas is already such a unique site in the world, and it makes you wonder how many other sites like this there may be out there in the area for future research", says Prieto.

Prieto also suggested that "this just may be the tip of the iceberg".

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