Archaeologists have uncovered the grisly remains of more than 13 bodies in northern Peru, including several butchered children. Thought to date back to the 15th and 16th centuries, the skeletons are likely to belong to members of the pre-Columbian Chimú or Inca empires, and provide yet more evidence of ritual human sacrifice among these ancient cultures.
The bodies were discovered by scientists working for the Peruvian Culture Ministry at Chotuna-Chornancap, a ruin complex located in the coastal region of Lambayeque where previous excavations had already revealed the remains of more than 50 supposed sacrifice victims.
In a statement (in Spanish), lead researcher Carlos Wester de la Torre explained that the bodies of six children were found buried in pairs and placed to the north, east, and west of the grave of an adult male who appears to have been a person of high social status. The two children to the west of this seemingly important figure “appear to have had their feet intentionally removed, suggesting they may have been sacrificed as offerings in order to function as 'guardians' of the [other] graves.”
Alongside the adult male in the central tomb, the archaeologists found several sculpted vessels that appeared to depict characters seen in the large colorful murals previously unearthed at Chotuna-Chornancap, such as a smiling man and a person chewing coca leaves. These murals portray scenes that would seem to be sacrificial in nature, and are populated by mythical figures carrying staffs and human heads. As such, the discovery of this imagery in the tomb of this evidently important individual enhances the suggestion that those buried around him may have been ritually sacrificed.
Chotuna-Chornancap is thought to have been constructed by the Sicán culture shortly after rising to prominence in the region around 750 CE, and was later occupied by the Chimú and then the Inca, both of which are likely to have continued to make sacrificial offerings at the site.