History : Sep-Oct 2018
NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY 5 met their fate at the same time because their bodies were all found in this layer. It may also offer an insight into motiva- tion. The presence of mud in such an arid environment suggests an unusual amount of heavy rainfall, perhaps caused by the meteorological phe- nomenon known as El Niño. Prieto and Verano have the- orized that the wet weather caused flooding that dam- aged irrigation and hurt fish- eries, which prompted priests to make extreme gestures to appease angry gods. If so, this desperate act was in vain: Around 1475 the Inca would sweep away what was left of the Chimú civilization. Peru when residents of nearby Huanchaquito reported find- ing skeletons in the sand. The team explored the site and be- gan a dig there that would last for several years as they stud- ied and recovered the remains. Angry Gods The killings were carried out more than 500 years ago by the wealthy pre-Columbian Chimú civilization. Their cap- ital sat near the mouth of the Moche River and was home to as many as 40,000 people. A muddy layer of soil ex- tends across the site and of- fers intriguing clues about the sacrifices. The research- ers concluded that the children GABRIEL PRIETO/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 1 2 3 4 TOP: ORONOZ/ALBUM BOTTOM: JOHN VERANO/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ABOVE RIGHT: 1 CEREMONIAL KNIFE FROM A CONTEMPORANEOUS PRE-COLUMBIAN SOCIETY (MUSEO ORO DEL PERÚ). BELOW (FOUND AT LAS LLAMAS): 2 SKULL STAINED RED WITH CINNABAR. 3 SEVERED STERNUM. 4 HUMAN RIB BEARING CLEAR SIGNS OF TRAUMA LIVES FOR THE GODS HUMAN SACRIFICE has been recorded in the Aztec, Maya, and Inca cultures, but the rite more typically involved the deaths of adults. Child sacrifice seems to have been much rarer. Before the Las Llamas find, the larg- est known incident had been at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, where 42 children were killed. As in this, and in cases of individual child murder at Inca sites, the violence at Las Llamas was highly ritualized. The children’s faces were daubed with a red, cinnabar- based pigment, traces of which were found on their skulls. Their sternums and ribs also bear the marks of a quick, deliberate strike, most likely a deep cut across the chest.