A mass sacrifice of children and camelids at the huanchaquito-las llamas site, moche valley, Peru

Gabriel Prieto, John W. Verano, Nicolas Goepfert, Douglas Kennett, Jeffrey Quilter, Steven LeBlanc, Lars Fehren-Schmitz, Jannine Forst, Mellisa Lund, Brittany Dement, Elise Dufour, Olivier Tombret, Melina Calmon, Davette Gadison, Khrystyne Tschinkel

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39 Scopus citations


Here we report the results of excavation and interdisciplinary study of the largest child and camelid sacrifice known from the New World. Stratigraphy, associated artifacts, and radiocarbon dating indicate that it was a single mass killing of more than 140 children and over 200 camelids directed by the Chimú state, c. AD 1450. Preliminary DNA analysis indicates that both boys and girls were chosen for sacrifice. Variability in forms of cranial modification (head shaping) and stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen suggest that the children were a heterogeneous sample drawn from multiple regions and ethnic groups throughout the Chimú state. The Huanchaquito-Las Llamas mass sacrifice opens a new window on a previously unknown sacrificial ritual from fifteenth century northern coastal Peru. While the motivation for such a massive sacrifice is a subject for further research, there is archaeological evidence that it was associated with a climatic event (heavy rainfall and flooding) that could have impacted the economic, political and ideological stability of one of the most powerful states in the New World during the fifteenth century A.D.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0211691
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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