Photo by @RobertClarkphoto // I have seen and photographed dozens of Mummies from all over the world, all different time periods, but nothing prepared me for the number and the tragic story that I photographed on the coast of Peru the village of Huanchaco. Evidence for the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history—has been discovered on Peru’s northern coast, archaeologists tell National Geographic.
More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire.
Scientific investigations by the international, interdisciplinary team, led by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are ongoing. The work is supported by grants from the National Geographic Society.
While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world. “I, for one, never expected it,” says Verano, a physical anthropologist who has worked in the region for more than three decades. “And I don’t think anyone else would have, either.”The sacrifice site, formally known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, is located on a low bluff just a thousand feet from the sea, amid a growing spread of cinderblock residential compounds in Peru’s northern Huanchaco district. Less than half a mile to the east of the site is the UNESCO World Heritage site of #ChanChan, the ancient Chimú administrative center, and beyond its walls, the modern provincial capital of Trujillo.
Only the Inca commanded a larger empire than the Chimú in pre-Columbian South America, and superior Inca forces put an end to the Chimú Empire around A.D. 1475. More images to come for this story in the February issue of the @NatGeo Magazine. Text by #KristinRomey #GabrielPrieto @atedge