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Ancient ritual sacrifice of children and llamas unearthed in PeruAncient ritual sacrifice of children and llamas unearthed in Peru

Ancient ritual sacrifice of children and llamas unearthed in Peru


Archaeologists in Peru have announced the rare discovery of a ritual sacrifice of children and young llamas dating back 600 years. The finding is believed to be linked with the Chimú culture, which flourished along the coast of Peru from about 900 until 1470 AD, when it was conquered by the Inca empire.

According to a news release by Tulane University, the finding was first made by Peruvian archaeologist, Gabriel Prieto, in 2011, in the coastal village of Huanchaquito, where he found the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas that showed signs of having been sacrificed in a religious ceremony – a highly unusual discovery as most sacrificial victims found to date have been adults. The villagers in Huanchaquito had noticed bones poking up out of the sand, just 100 yards from the beach.

Map of Huanchaquito

Map of Huanchaquito. Source:

Prieto was joined in June this year by Tulane University physical anthropologist John Verano, and together they uncovered additional sacrificial victims. "This is unusual, and not what we've seen before," Verano said, "especially on the coast of Peru."

“The researchers think that the sacrifice may have been an offering to the sea, or a response to severe flooding brought on by an El Niño event,” writes “The llamas may have been intended to transport the victims to the afterlife.”

The Chimú people were the residents of Chimor, with its capital at the city of Chan Chan, a large adobe city in the Moche Valley of present-day Trujillo city.  They were the largest Peruvian civilization prior to the rise of the Incas.

The impressive city of Chan Chan, home to the Chimú culture

The impressive city of Chan Chan, home to the Chimú culture.

While very little is known about the reason why the children and llamas were sacrificed, and the meaning behind it, another discovery made at Huanchaquito earlier this year revealed complex religious rituals involving fish and sharks, dating back some 3,500 years. [Read similar: ‘Temple Discovery in Peru Sheds Light on Life of Ancient Shark Hunters’]

Prieto said that the finding of the sacrificial victims “represents the most important discovery related to human and animal sacrifices of the Chimu culture”.

Featured image: The remains of a child and a llama unearthed in the fishing town of Huanchaquito, Trujillo. Credit: Mariana Bazo

By April Holloway



angieblackmon's picture

Okay, not trying to be gross or morbid, but what signs did they show that proved they were sacrificed?

love, light and blessings


DeAegean's picture

Imagine being an ancient culture being terrorized by storms and floods on the coast of Peru. They only thing you could think to do was sacrifice your children to better your lives. That's kind of sad but at least they helped them out with the llama transports to the heavens. Sad History is Sad

aprilholloway's picture


April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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