Peruvian archaeologists discover bloody remains of possibly oldest known human sacrifices in the Americas

Peruvian archaeologists have uncovered skeletal remains of three people ritually sacrificed and buried in blood-stained sands around 4,000 years ago at the Bandurria archaeological ruins on Peru’s central Pacific coast, the research leader told Peruvian Times on Monday.

“It is the first time that such a violent human sacrifice has been reported,” San Marcos Univerisity archaeologist Alejandro Chu said in a telephone interview from the site near Huacho, 87 miles north of the capital, Lima.

He said the only documented human sacrifices he is aware of that rose to such violent heights were the ritual torture and killing of war prisoners by the Moche Culture in northern Peru between A.D. 150 and A.D. 650 — documented by physical anthropologist John Verano of Tulane University.

Human sacrifices excavated from later periods are almost always buried in flexed positions, accompanied by elaborate funerary offerings.

“They are generally wrapped with cloths and with care,” Chu explained. In the case Bandurria, there was no respect shown to the sacrificial subjects, he said, adding “we found no evidence of knife grooves to indicate that they had been cut, but rather torn apart.”

“It seems that the pre-ceramic societies were not as peaceful as they have been depicted,” said Chu. “There were also moments in which they carried out very violent and very bloody acts.”

Chu said his team made the discovery a month ago, unearthing the hip bones and legs of two women, who were between 16 to 20 years old when they died, and a decapitated skeleton of a man about 20. The remains were preserved beneath five feet of sand in the site’s second circular plaza.

“We think it was a very bloody event, a very bloody sacrifice,” he said. “In the sand adjacent to the remains we discovered traces of what appears to be blood from the organs, or in other words from the extremities that were ripped apart and thrown there bloody. We found small red spots from blood stains in the sand around the bodies.”

Chu said samples were sent the United States for carbon dating to isolate the age of the find and to determine whether the victims were strangers or if the inhabitants had sacrificed their own people.

It has been determined that the site where the skeletal remains were found was inhabited between 3200-1800 B.C., he said, which could make the human remains the oldest known human sacrifices in the Americas.

Bandurria was discovered in 1973 by Domingo Torero. The ruins rival the ancient city of Caral and several other sites in Peru’s central Supe Valley as the oldest known complex society in the Americas. “Several radiocarbon datings conducted in the United States confirmed that Bandurria dates back to 3200 B.C., while Caral dates from 2900,” Chu said.

“Based on the condition and placement of the bones, we do not know if the capitation was the cause of death, or if he was already death when he was decapitated. The same with the legs that we found. We do not know if that was the cause of death,” Chu said.

Chu believes that the plaza, which served as a religious site, was at some point abandoned by the the inhabitants and that the violent and bloody ritual ceremony probably accompanied that decision to leave the site.

“The human beings we found are part of that ritual. When they abandoned the sacred area, they organized a series of sacrificial rituals, probably as an offering to this site for the religious importance it had,” Chu theorized.

Findings in the first plaza, which Chu believes to be more contemporary, yielded no evidence of human sacrifice. Human remains buried at that site were wrapped in cotton fabrics and buried beneath large stones, as well as sea shells and other comestible products.

Chu said he believes further digging at Bandurria, which he started excavating three years ago, will lead to more findings. He estimates that ten more structures lie hidden beneath the sand.

The archaeological project sponsors school groups and offers guided tours for tourists.

Sharing is caring!

Comments are closed.