Science & Technology

Pre-Inca archaeological site yields 8 child sacrificial victims

Lima, Feb 22 (EFE).- Archaeologists working at the excavations in Cajamarquilla, Peru’s second-largest pre-Inca city, have found two new bundles containing the remains of children apparently sacrificed to accompany into the afterlife the mummy of an upper class figure some 800 to 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologists Yomira Huaman and her professor, Pieter Van Dalen, of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos (UNMSM) made the announcement of the find on Tuesday, confirming that these two new bundles of human remains raise the total number of such bundles at the dig to eight and making the site the oldest ever discovered in Peru containing a mass sacrifice of children.

“At first there were six, but in the following days two more were added. In all, that makes eight children and 12 adults who have been found associated with the Cajamarquilla mummy,” said Van Dalen during the presentation of the find at the Colegio Real de San Marcos, in downtown Lima.

Due to the evidence of violence on the remains of these people – and they are wrapped in cotton cloth and tied up with cords – the archaeologists’ preliminary hypothesis is that they were sacrificed to accompany the spirit of an upper class man, who had probably played an important social role in the ancient urban complex located on the periphery of the modern day Peruvian capital, some 21 kilometers (13 miles) from the city center.

The mummy of the upper class individual, who was between 35 and 40 years of age when he died, was discovered last November when archaeologists found a meticulously interred body bound into a fetal position with cords and with both hands positioned to partially cover his face in the style of Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream.”

So far in February, in the outer area of the magnificent tomb, located in the so-called Kroeber sector of the complex, archaeologists have found ceramic objects, along with organic and botanical items, accompanying the remains of the eight children and 12 adults, and it is thought that these people could have been children, wives or servants of the important individual.

Huaman said that most of the adults found at the site are men, while the remains of women there have been better preserved since they were wrapped in cotton cloth, just like the children.

Evidently, these pre-Inca remains may be from the Huari culture, which dominated the Peruvian Andes during the 7th through 13th centuries, and thus this could be a group of adults and children sacrificed before the much larger mass sacrifices of children – numbering hundreds of individuals – made by the Chimu people in the 11th through 15th centuries in Huanchaco, near Trujillo.

This find could confirm that the Cajamarquilla site, which covers about 170 hectares (about 500 acres), was an important trade hub between the coast and the Andean sierra where between 10,000 and 20,000 people of different pre-Incan ethnicities or nationalities lived.

“The importance of Cajamarquilla is the clash … of different cultures. (The complex) is located in Lima, but we’re also seeing that many people from the upper Andean zone were arriving here and there was cultural exchange,” said Huaman, who launched the project as part of her graduate thesis.

To date, archaeologists have only excavated 1 percent of the complex area, according to Huaman, who said she was convinced that “Cajamarquilla still has much more to say, much more to tell (us).”

The main challenge, however, is receiving permission from the Peruvian government to continue with the excavations and, above all, finding financing, said USMSM dean Jeri Gloria Ramon Ruffner, who issued a call to national and international entities to collaborate with the research project.

“The problem is the resources, the budget. The University of Salamanca, the Spanish universities need to come to support us,” she said.

In the coming months, some of the items found at Cajamarquilla will be sent to specialized laboratories abroad to have radiocarbon dating, DNA and strontium studies performed, among others, with an eye toward being able to more precisely determine specifically where the people whose remains have been found came from.

EFE csr/dub/lll/bp

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