Archaeologists have found the remains of footless children around the ruins of an ancient temple on Peru's northern coast -- likely evidence of child sacrifices at the ceremonial complex.
A team led by archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre, of the Culture Ministry's Unidad Ejecutora 005 Naylamp, discovered more than 13 burials dating to the 15th and 16th centuries at the Chotuna-Chornancap site in the region of Lambayeque.
The temple and pyramid complex covering over 1500 years of history, the site has yielded the tomb of a 13th century "Chornancap priestess," one of the most powerful people in the Lambayeque culture.
Accompanied by eight other people, the priestess was buried with a copper mask, elaborate jewelry, ceramic offerings and a gold scepter with the image of a Lambayeque god.
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According to a statement by the culture ministry unit, the newly discovered graves belong to the later Chimú culture, which had been conquered by the Inca.
Six children were buried in pairs in shallow graves on the east, west and north of the temple's ruins.
Most importantly, the two children interred on the west were footless.
"It appears the feet had been removed intentionally, suggesting they had been sacrificed as an offering and used as 'guardians' of the graves," the Unidad Ejecutora 005 Naylamp said.
Evidence of ritualistic activities and possibly human sacrifices could be also found in the remains of the other adult individuals, men and women, who were buried face-up in narrow and long pits.
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At the center of the grave site, the archaeologists found the most prominent person, a male individual who was buried with two clay pots on one side and a sculpted vessel on the other. The vessel appeared to depict the head of a "coquero," a coca leaf-chewer. Another sculpted vessel represented a man standing up and smiling.
"Such offerings appear to be related to some of the characters in a polychrome painting that was discovered earlier in the temple," the archaeologists said.
The painting shows some individuals carrying staffs and some others holding the heads of decapitated people.
"The archaeological excavations in this season have begun to yield results that allow us to reconstruct the function of places such as Chornancap," Wester La Torre said.
"Since the discovery of the priestess' s grave, the site has continued to reveal the complexity of ceremonies and rituals that took place at the temple," he added.
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