Newly Unearthed Pre-Inca Tombs Show Ancient Chimú Practiced Child Sacrifice
12 children have been identified amongst the 50 individuals buried in 47 Pre-Inca tombs at a recently unearthed site in Peru. Archaeologists believe the children were sacrificial offerings. A wealth of artifacts has also been encountered, casting light on the previously unknown site, the cultures who were there, and its usage.
The tombs were found at the Lomas La Cruz site in Huanchaco, Trujillo, Peru and archaeologists told El Comercio that they are Chimú burials. Victor Campaña León, the director at the archaeological site, told El Comercio that the site was probably “an area for funerary offerings in the Chimú culture. The people probably lived in Chan Chan [the Chimú capital] and came here to leave their offerings.”
Excavating the remains of one of the sacrificed children. (La República)
It seems they left quite a lot. Newsweek reports more than 100 artifacts were found alongside the bodies. Images presented on Telesur show that several of the objects are ceramics with maritime themes, coastal animals, and geometric shapes – reflecting the connection the ancient cultures felt with the sea.
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Some of the artifacts recovered from the Pre-Inca site. (Johnny Aurazo)
RPP states that the site was also used by the Salinar, Gallinazo Virú, and Moche cultures. Campaña told El Comerico “This was an urban zone before the Chimú’s used it for their offerings.” The ruins of stone corridors and rooms have been found as well as the tombs.
Gabriel Prieto Burméster, an archaeologist with the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and Yale University and researcher working on the rescue archaeology project, told RPP “We have found several offerings. Wooden idols, camelids, sacrificed children, Chimú metal artifacts, even a tomb with the teeth of a white shark […]” Numerous fishing tools were also discovered.
Andina reports on some of the larger burials: one of a child buried with 39 (some reports say 49) spondylus shells - the most found in a Peruvian burial to date - and another of an adult laid to rest alongside eight ceramic vessels. Campaña believes the shells may have been left as an offering meant to draw in rain.
Many spondylus shells were unearthed in just one of the tombs. (Andina)
Water was undoubtedly an important element in the life of the ancient Chimú. Campaña reflected more on how rain may have had an influence on sacrifice, a ritual practice for the Chimú people, saying “What they (Chimú) wanted to do with the presence of the children in this arid area is to attract rain, to improve cultivation.” Newsweek reports that there are cut marks on the chests of some of the children and archaeologists think the hearts of the children may have been removed in part of the rain-seeking ritual.
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The tombs and artifacts were found during a rescue archaeology project in preparation for a program to provide potable water to the region. According to Andina, the project has been on the go since October 2017 and is planned to continue until June this year. Archaeologists have excavated 49% of the 6,444 meter-squared site so far.
Excavating the site. Pre-Inca burials can be seen in the foreground. (Johnny Aurazo)
Prieto told Andina that he expects many interesting finds to be made at the immense site. He also suggests a museum should be created for the recovered artifacts, stressing the importance of the ancient cultures on the northern coast of Peru.
Top Image: Excavating one of the Pre-Inca tombs. Source: Johnny Aurazo