It’s believed to have taken place about 550 years ago in the pre-Columbian Chimu Empire at a site known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas. According to National Geographic this week, it’s the largest child sacrifice in history. More than 140 skeletal remains of children were uncovered in the dry sand near the coast of Trujillo, Peru. Laying next to them were more than 200 baby llamas.
According to the report, the children ranged in age from 5 to 14. Their remains showed evidence of cuts to the sternum and their faces were smeared with red cinnabar-based pigment. It is believed the ceremony involved painting the children’s’ faces red, then cutting open their chests to remove the heart. According to the report, “the sacrificial llamas appear to have met the same fate.”
The baby llamas were buried facing east, toward the peaks of the Andes mountains, while the children were buried facing west, towards the sea. The site has been under excavation since 2011. It is believed more bodies will be discovered at the site.