In Peru, the largest was found the remains of sacrificial children

The remains had been preserved in dry sand for more than 500 years. Gabriel Prieto  National Geographic

The remains had been preserved in dry sand for more than 500 years. Gabriel Prieto National Geographic

Archeologists in Peru unearthed the remains of more than 140 children killed in a mass sacrifice 550 years ago Thursday, claiming it may be the largest human sacrifice in history. The Chimu Culture of Peru The size of the child sacrifice event dwarfs the ritual killings of 42 children previously uncovered in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, now Mexico City, points out National Geographic, and it must have been very gruesome.

The 140 sacrificed children were five to 14 years old at the time of the ritualistic human sacrifice that cut their lives short.

The team uncovered evidence of "the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas - and likely in world history".

Current research in Peru, officially called Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, conducted by an global team funded by the National geographic society. John Verano, a physical anthropologist from Tulane University who has worked in the area for 30 years told Nat Geo, "I, for one, never expected it".

A lot of them were aged eight to 12, disclosed the archaeologists, who note that the children were mostly buried facing west, towards the sea.

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

Archaeologists were first alerted to the human remains after residents of the Peruvian city of Trujillo found weathered skeletons protruding from a bluff near their houses in the La Libertad neighborhood in 2011.

Aside from the astounding number of child and llama skeletons, the 7,500-square-foot site also yielded the remains of three adults, which had been less ceremoniously entombed and which experts believe may have been involved in the mass sacrifice.

"There are no other examples of child sacrifices anywhere in the world that compares to the magnitude of this Chimú event", Verano says. Archaeologists noted that most of the children had been buried facing west toward the ocean and llamas were looking toward the east at the Andes. "This clearly was a different type of ritual-just children in the sand", said Verano. They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices. Robes and fabric discovered in the site were dated between 1400 and 1450.

"It makes you wonder how many other sites like this there may be out there in the area for future research", Prieto told National Geographic.

The team said that mud found at the site could have been the result of severe flooding and rain at the time that could disrupted food supplies.

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