Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice Site Discovered Near Trujillo, Peru

In April, archaeologists discovered evidence of what could be the largest mass child sacrifice in the Americas, if not all of documented world history. More than 140 children and 200 young llamas were found at the burial site located near the city of Trujillo in Northern Peru.

Archaeologists have attributed the burial site, Las Llamas, to the Chimú Empire and have dated the ritually performed sacrifice to about 550 years ago in response to flooding caused by the El Niño weather pattern.

“They were possibly offering the gods the most important thing they had as a society, and the most important thing is children because they represent the future,” said Gabriel Prieto, an archaeology professor at Peru’s Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and co-leader of the excavation at Las Llamas.

John Verano of Tulane University and Prieto’s fellow lead investigator, noted that the children’s skeletons had lesions on their breastbones, probably made with a ceremonial knife, and dislocated ribcages suggesting that their hearts were likely extracted during the sacrifice.

This discovery provides some of the first concrete evidence that large-scale child sacrifices were practiced in ancient Peru. Prior to this discovery, the mass sacrifice of children had been rarely documented.

The ongoing scientific investigation and excavation of the Las Llamas burial site is supported by the National Geographic Society.