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Researchers say that the children were buried according to chronological age, often in groups of three.
In some cases, llama bodies were placed on top of child remains.
Some Mesoamerican civilizations, such as the Aztecs, are known for gruesome sacrificial ceremonies that included ripping out beating hearts from conscious victims.
They likely came from different regions and ethnic groups within the Chimú empire.
But until now, archaeologists didn’t think that the Chimú empire killed large numbers of children.
Child sacrifices of this magnitude are unprecedented not only in this region, but in the world, the researchers say.
Beyond a few ceramic beer jugs and stirring paddles left behind that point to ritual drinking, little else is known about the sacrifice.
More analysis could help the researchers uncover who these children were and why they were victims of this Chimú ritual.
This normally arid region may have been crippled by extreme, wet weather brought on by an El Niño system.