Archaeologists have found the remains of 140 children in a mass grave on the northern coast of Peru - evidence they say suggests the largest ritual child sacrifice in history, according to National Geographic.
Quilter is heading a team of scientists who will analyze DNA samples from the children's remains to see if they were related and figure out which areas of the Chimu empire the sacrificed youth came from. While human sacrifice was common among ancient civilizations such as the Incas and the Aztecs, the discovery which was supported by grants from the National Geographic Society, sheds new light on the Chimu Empire in Peru.
Calling it a "remarkable discovery", Jeffrey Quilter, the director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University said the site provides "concrete evidence" that large-scale sacrifices of children occurred in ancient Peru.
The archaeological site, formally known as "Huanchaquito-Las Llamas", is located less than half a mile from the UNESCO World Heritage site of Chan Chan. "And I don't think anyone else would have, either", physical anthropologist John Verano, from Tulane University Verano, said in a statement.
In addition, near the city of Trujillo also were found the remains of 200 young lamas who, apparently, was sacrificed on the same day and kids. The llamas were less than 18 months and were buried facing the Andes mountains on the east.
Analysis of the remains has also left researchers thinking that the cuts "were made by one or more trained hands".
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The site was first discovered by Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo in 2011, when he was excavating a 3,500-year-old temple down the road from the sacrifice site.
"It is ritual killing and it's very systematic", Verano told Nat Geo.
The largest child ritual killing site in the world - with corpses of more than 140 children and 200 young llamas - was discovered by archaeologists in the northern coast of the Huanchaco district, Peru.
Their sternums were cut and their ribs dislocated so their chests could be broke open and pulled apart, likely to facilitate the removal of the heart.
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. The remains of three adults were found close to the children and animals, with signs of blunt-force trauma to the head. Human sacrifice has taken place in every corner of the world at one time or another in our history, although the mass sacrifice of children is very rare, actually nearly unheard of to most scientists.
"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.