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Why were hundreds of children slaughtered in Peru in the 1400’s?

In reading the headlines of my Science email this morning one headline both repelled me and kept drawing me back to it.

Ancient slaughter of 140 children marks largest child sacrifice in the Americas

It was a chilling headline and accompanied in the email by the image of two small skeletons laying in shallow graves. My heart broke just looking at it, but my mind needed to know more about the incident. To know what happened. To make sense of what the headline was telling me.

The headline lead to the Science article that began; “Around 1450 C.E. on the northern coast of Peru, more than 140 children and 200 young llamas were marched to their deaths.

It was a hard read, the children were young, ranging in ages from 6 to 14 and were both boys and girls. The harder read, however, was the article at the National Geographic website that the Science article linked to.

National Geographic asked; “What made this ancient society sacrifice its own children?” The article is a tough read, breaking the heart into fragments and then crushing those under tears as you see pictures of the small skeletons of children that had been ritually sacrificed and buried with tiny llamas.

Chillingly, the article at the National Geographic site intensifies the horror with the revelation that it was not 140 children… it was 140 children at one of two burial sites.

Unspeakably, unfathomably, 269 children, three adults, and 466 llamas were found in the two burial sites. And no one can figure out why. The National Geographic article does a good job of piecing together the known facts of the burials and what archaeologists theorize happened based on the discovery. The strongest theory held so far is that the sacrifices were to appease the gods and stop an El Nino event that was devastating the area.

I have my own possible theory that my sometimes too active imagination came up with as I read through the evidence in the National Geographic article.

The burial sites include two women who died from blows to the head and were buried among the children on the northern side of the site. Nearby were the remains of a robust male adult, laying on his back under a pile of rocks. At the second site archaeologists discovered an anomaly. Graves of nine Chimu children who were buried in robes and elaborate headdresses that were adorned with parrot feathers and wooden ornaments. None of the nine children at that burial have the ritualistic slash to the chest that is evident on the other children. The only cause of death noted in the National Geographic article is that one of the children had damage to the skull that is consistent with a heavy blow having ended the child’s life.

My theory…

Could those nine children have been the children of the leader of the Chimu? Did something happen, perhaps fevers or floodwaters, something terrible that caused the leader of the Chimu to face the loss of nine of his children. The last possibly struck in the head to end the child’s life because of suffering or a knowledge that the child was dying slowly so was instead given what the person deemed a mercifully quick death?

When that thought crossed my mind in my imagination’s efforts to make sense of the burial of the nine children that baffled the archaeologists, I found myself subconsciously wondering what might have transpired if that were the case.

Something happened, children of the leader of the Chimu died. The women could either be mothers of the children, or the women who had been tasked with caring for them. The women were not killed in ritual fashion, but with blows to the head. Was this because they had failed to keep the nine children safe and alive?

The man might have been the guard for the children, or the person who had ended the life of the child who had suffered a blow to the head. Was he buried under a pile of rocks because he was stoned to death? Or crushed under the weight slowly as rocks were added to the pile above him? I did not see any information other than that he was buried under a pile of rocks, so my mind can only wonder if he were the victim of angry parents taking out their pain by stoning the man that was said to be responsible for the horrors the Chimu faced. The man responsible for the deaths of so many children.

And what of those children who were ritually sacrificed?

The National Geographic article tells how the Spanish chronicles claim that the Inca sacrificed hundreds of children upon the installation or death of a king, a claim the National Geographic article notes has not yet been confirmed by archaeological evidence. What if such mass ritual sacrifices where performed?

The article at the National Geographic site notes:

Archaeologists have found evidence of human sacrifice in all parts of the world.

Imagine the leader of the Chimu, his children have died and are to be buried. Could that, not the El Nino event, have been the reason for the mass deaths of so many children and young llama?

Were the children and llamas sacrificed that they might go to the next world with the children of the Chimu’s leader?

I can see the events in the part of my mind that plans out stories, the part of my theater of the mind that caused me to want to rewrite the story of the Princes in the Tower so many years ago. I can not help but think that this is a story, like that, which will keep replaying itself over and over in my subconsciousness. My mind will try to think it over, to think of some way to explain the deaths of so many children. Perhaps one day I will try to weave their story into a novel, driven by the same thought that they deserved so much better that compelled me to create the Heir to Magic series from an article long ago of two small boys that were sent to a tower and vanished.

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