A great sacrifice: the terrible ritual of the Ancient Peru
Archaeologists find evidence of human sacrifice in all corners of the globe. But what they saw in the North of Peru in the vicinity of the ancient capital of the Chimu people of Chan-Chan, shocked even seasoned researchers, are the remains of 269 children with traces of incised wounds to the sternum and ribs. Who and why has committed this terrible murder?
24 APR 2019 17:13
Friday before Easter in the village of Wanakita on the North coast of Peru. 500 years ago there was a ritual cemetery has long been turned into the debris on the vacant lot.
Rhythms of dance music wafting from a seaside cafe a few hundred yards to the East, ominously reminiscent of the beating of the heart. They echoed the dull rasp of shovels: workers swept up broken glass, plastic bottles and spent cartridges for shotguns, revealing the outlines of the little graves.
Spread-eagled on both sides of the grave, two students-the archaeologist dressed in scrubs and masks are taken to clear it with shovels.
After some time, shows the skull of a child crowned with a MOP of black hair. Succeeding scoops for brushes, the young people gently brush away loose sand from the lower part of the skull and shoulder bones sticking out from under the rough cotton of the shroud, and their eyes are opened, the remains of tiny Lama kids lying along the skeleton.
Archaeologists Gabriel Prieto (with a brush, in light shirt) and John Verano (left, with camera) together with his team dig shallow graves in Wanakita. Shortly after the excavation of this complex, archaeologists found a second place of sacrifice of children in the nearby Pampa La Cruz.
Gabriel Prieto, an archaeologist from the National University of Trujillo, visiting the tomb and nods. “E95”, – he announces, as if making a move in the endless game of chess. Prieto keeps count of the victims: this find is already 95th in 2011, when he began to investigate a mass grave. In total, two nearby graves will be found the remains of 269 children aged 5 to 14 years and three adults. They all died over 500 years ago during the elaborate sacrifice – perhaps such rituals neither before nor after did not know the history of the world.
“Well, did not expect!” – Prieto exclaims, in disbelief shaking his head. These words of the archaeologist repeats like a mantra, trying to make sense of the strange findings from Wanakita Las llamas. In our days the violent death of even one child will not only touch the most callous heart, and the Ghost of mass murder will strike fear into any normal person. And scientists are baffled: what desperate circumstances could coerce people into such a monstrous act?
Headdress made of feathers blue and yellow macaw adorns the long-haired skull of the child sacrificed. According to scientists, the headdress may indicate a noble origin of the victim.
Archaeologists had previously found evidence of human sacrifice in all corners of the globe. The number of victims could number in the hundreds – apparently, often they were prisoners of war, or fallen in ritual battles, or servants, the devotees of death after the death of the leader or in the construction of the temple. Ancient texts including the old Testament, contain mention of child sacrifices, but for archaeologists like graves of children – a rarity. Before the opening of Wanakita place the largest child sacrifice in North and South America – and perhaps throughout the world – was the main temple in the Aztec capital of tenochtitlán (modern Mexico city), where in the XV century, killed 42 children.
Prieto grew up in Huanchaco, a town near Wanakita. As a child he was looking for beads near the Spanish Church on top of a high hill, it was his first excavations. He recalls that after noon ran often on the southern border of the city, to the ruins of Adobe Chan-Chan the capital of the ancient Chimu. In the heyday of the (XV century), Chan Chan was one of the largest cities of the Americas and heart of the Empire, stretching 500 kilometers along the coast of the present Peru.
Those childhood experiences inspired Prieto to become an archaeologist, and started work on his dissertation at Yale University, he returned to his native town on the site of the temple erected by 3.5 thousand years ago.
And in 2011 the owner of a local pizzeria shared amazing news: his children – and the local dogs began to find human bones sticking out of the sand on the nearby wasteland. He persuaded the archaeologist to scout out what’s going on.
Prieto initially thought it was just a forgotten cemetery. But, digging up the remains of several children wrapped in shrouds, and with their radiocarbon Dating – the years 1400-1450, an archaeologist realized that I had stumbled on a large scale and terrible disposal.
The remains of two children — perhaps a boy and girl lie side by side in a mass grave on the arid coast of Northern Peru. This is only two of 269 children sacrificed. Most of the victims were killed by the dissection of the breast and possibly to extract the heart, and buried in simple shrouds.
Prieto noted that the grave is not typical for the culture Chimu: the children were buried in unusual positions – lying on your back or crouched on the side and not seated, as was customary among the Chimu. In addition, instead of jewelry, ceramics and other grave goods, known to archaeologists of these burials were buried next to the skeletons of young lamas. (An important source of meat and wool, as well as a reliable means to transport goods, these Andean camels are highly valued in the Chimu people.) And finally, there was another strange circumstance: the remains of many children and Lam has retained clear traces of incised wounds to the sternum and ribs.
To solve these puzzles, Prieto called on John Verano, an anthropologist and forensic expert from the University of Tulane in New Orleans. Verano long explores the physical evidence of ritual cults in the Andes, for example, studied how in the XIII century the Chim cut two hundred men and boys in the town of Punta Lobos.
After examining the remains from Wanakita, Verano confirmed that children and animals were intentionally killed the same way – transection of the sternum, which may have followed the extraction of the heart. Most of all he was struck by the similarity in the location of wounds, and the absence on the bones traces of cuts uncertain – a kind of “test knife”. “It is a ritual murder, and very thoughtful,” he concluded.
Near Huaylillas in the Northern highlands of Peru 14-year-old Daniel pushes the breast the baby alpacas. The study showed, in sacrifice to the gods Chimu were born children of the same age or younger come from different corners of the Empire, including in mountain areas.
But to raise the events in Wanakita not so easy, mainly because of the culture Chimu scientists know very little. But they could be masters of a mighty Empire, of which few have heard. Her mark in history is lost between the two civilizations, much better preserved in the memory of posterity. First – culture urine, whose amazing murals captured the bloody sacrifice of prisoners of war.
Second – the Incas, to crush the Chimu around 1470, when the conquest of their own Empire by the Spanish conquerors remained little more than 60 years.
Chema did not leave written records of our meager knowledge about them is based on archaeological finds Yes on the Spanish Chronicles. However, in these sources it is mentioned that sacrificed hundreds of children by the Incas on the occasion of the enthronement or death of a ruler (although archaeologists have not yet found evidence), but no hint of what and CIMA have made child sacrifices on the same scale, no. “We never know what the chime was performed similar rituals – recognized Verano, referring to the unprecedented number of victims. Archaeologists were lucky.”
Students-archaeologists from the National University of Trujillo prepared to clean and catalogue skulls from a mass grave in Wanakita. The dry climate of Northern Peru contributed to the natural mummification of many of the remains; they are extremely well preserved.
Light on the mystery of Aniceto… hardened mud, in which were buried the victims. Powerful layers of silt indicate prolonged heavy rains. “On the arid coast of Northern Peru these showers usually only brings El niño,” explains Prieto.
The population of Chan Chan was fed thanks to the efficient irrigation systems and coastal fisheries, but increasing sea temperatures and heavy rains caused by the climatic phenomenon that could shake both political and economic foundations of the Empire of Chimu. Perhaps the priests and leaders decided to make a massive sacrifice in a desperate attempt to beg the gods to stop the flood and starvation.
“So many children, so many animals – it could be a very valuable offering to the gods on behalf of the state,” says Prieto.
Jane Eva Baxter is an anthropologist from the University of de Paul in Chicago, exploring the history of children and childhood, supports the hypothesis that in the eyes of the chime children can be one of the most valuable gifts that you could present to the gods. “But it means to sacrifice their future – reflects it. – All energy and forces which have left on procreation and the preservation of society, – all killed together with the child, given the slaughter”.
Perhaps, the sacrifice reflects a new system of representations of pre-Columbian peoples of Northern Peru about how to curry favor with higher powers. As noted by Claus Hagen, an anthropologist from the University of George Mason in Virginia, the children’s sacrifice in the region became commonplace after the fall of the urine in the IX century. Themselves urine has sacrificed many prisoners of war in the temple of the moon – from the heart of the Empire Chimu in Chan Chan, it was separated only a few kilometers (though a few centuries).
“With the fall urine these beliefs are outdated and rituals no longer in force, says Klaus. – But, apparently, was much more what he was believing and the inhabitants of Chan-Chan. Sacrifice is a very carefully constructed forms of communicating with the spirit world. So Chim, as they believed, interacted with the space.”
Maybe a appeasement perfume and the cessation of the rain and can no longer be postponed, but nevertheless the mass sacrifice was carefully considered. The young Lama is another valuable resource – may have been selected for this event from the state of the herd. Nicholas Geppert, an expert on camels from the National center for scientific research of France, has studied a well-preserved wool four-legged victims and suggested that Chim was selected for the ceremony by age and color. So, in the tombs of dark brown llama often coexist with light brown, but not white nor black animals.
“We know from Spanish Chronicles that the Inca was the color code for the sacrificial Lam – says Geppert. – Maybe Chim took it in a similar way”.
The prints of the hoofs of young lamas imprinted in a deep layer of mud around the graves of the sacrificed child, Wanakita. Signs of heavy rains on the arid coast gave scientists the idea that a mass sacrifice of children could be a reaction to the desperate adults on the rains caused by El niño.
How was the selection of children who were expecting such a terrible fate remains a mystery: Wanakita were killed boys and girls, which are well cared for: the remains of almost not bear signs of malnutrition or disease. Judging by the results of isotopic analysis of teeth, it was the natives of different parts of the vast Chimu Empire. Unnaturally elongated shape of some skulls indicates a deliberate manipulation of minds in infancy, practiced only in remote mountain areas.
But many questions remain unanswered. What strata of society belonged to these children? It’s hard to say without burial inventory. They gave willingly in the face of impending disaster, or were taken forcibly? Archaeologists speculated. There are signs and the results of forensic medical examination experts are trying to reconstruct the course of events.
The sacrifice of children and young lamas, all very valuable for Chimu –may have been an attempt to beg the gods to stop the rains that plunged the Empire into chaos.
The pattern of the footprints, preserved in hardened mud, suggests that the place of sacrifice was moving in solemn procession. The prints of small bare feet and the hooves of four-legged animals, which dragged against his will, allowed Prieto and Verano to assume that the victims were led to the graves, where it was killed.
Perhaps this horrible mission fell on the shoulders of two women, who were then killed with blows to the head and buried in the Northern cemetery. Nearby were found the remains of an adult male, lying on his back under a pile of stones. His unusually strong physique made archaeologists think that this could be the executioner.
Did precious sacrifice to stop the rains? God knows, but this sad event allows us to introduce a last desperate years of a dying Empire.
“They could lose and were willing to pay the most expensive, says Baxter. – The victim very clearly highlight the position of the PFM during those difficult years.”
In a few decades to the walls of Chan-Chan will come troops of the Inca…
A rare image of a Pantheon of chima fabrics found in the graves of the nobility in Pampa La Cruz.
Carved wooden figures, stylized images of people or gods, but in children’s graves were discovered surprisingly few artifacts.
Figure with bowl in hand, might offer you chicha — corn beer.
Chicha — corn beer is made in such vessels as this one, excavated in Wanakita.
A few months after the excavation is completed in Wanakita news comes from Prieto: he has discovered a new ritual burials of children and llamas in the town of Pampa La Cruz, on a high hill, surmounted by a large wooden cross (hence the name: cross more than a century ago put a fisherman in gratitude for the rescue at sea).
A little further South on the coast stands a new monument in memory of the sacrifices made to the gods in Wanakita: statue of a little boy and llamas, surrounded by recently planted trees, one for every human victim. From the top of the Pampa La Cruz a beautiful view to the West, where splashing of the sea. I arrived in the middle of the Peruvian winter and saw a few brave surfers stormed the icy waves. Prieto unearthed the remains of 132 children Chema, most of whom also were killed by transection of the chest. Today the list of victims, discovered in two graves, is: 269 children, three adults and 466 Lam.
Copper knife found in Pampa La Cruz, is a unique product: it is provided with a ratchet, and emitting a sound when the blade cut through the chest of the victim.
The middle part of the broken sternum the child was neatly split in half, evidence of an elaborate, ritual murder.
There is another mystery: nine graves on the top of a hill among ruins of an earlier sanctuary of the era of the urine, facing the sea. Here also are buried the children to the Chim, but they are buried in the robes and quaint headdresses, decorated with feathers of parrots and a carved wooden ornaments. All of the victims is no trace of the incision on the chest, but one heavily damaged skull – probably a fatal blow to the head.
For the week, I conducted excavations, Prieto was lucky to bring into the light of a huge copper knife with ratchet on one end – still no archaeologist could find nothing of the sort. “Lord, what is this? – he exclaims. – Is it the same knife that killed the children?”.
One day at lunch Prieto says ancient tradition, that draws the Chim in a more attractive light. Chronicles tell about events that happened after the arrival of the Inca and Spanish: don Antonio Jaguar, the leader of the besieged chima showed the Spanish conquerors a stash of priceless treasures. In Huanchaco there is a legend that don Antonio led them to the peje chico – less treasure – and peje grande still not been found. “I would like to think that these kids are peje grande that Chimu was the greatest jewel,” thoughtfully says Prieto.