Recent excavations at a site in Peru have uncovered an ancient temple where young women were apparently sacrificially killed and decapitated before their blood was consumed and their bodies were arranged in a ritualistic manner. What’s more, this gruesome ceremony was performed by what may be a previously undiscovered civilization predating the Incas.
Archaeologist Edgar Bracamonte led the excavation which began last December at a temple in Lambayeque, 750 km (465 miles) north of Lima. Bracamonte says the temple would have been ideal for ceremonies 1,000 years ago with its big main entrance, wide patio and ramps leading up to the higher spots. There were pieces of ceremonial ceramic vessels, traces of spondylus (a sacred conch) and remains of burnt sacrificial foods and other offerings.
Oh … and some skulls and headless bodies, said Bracamonte.
We have found six young women sacrifices in this space, in this small space which is part of the temple. Four of them were left in one mass grave one on top of the other. Another was in the corner of the main ramp and the sixth woman was found here in a strange position for the time and this shows us sacredness of the temple.
The ceramics and other relics found suggest that blood drinking may have been part of these already grisly rituals. With the site pre-dating the Incas, who are the people that performed these human sacrifices?
Bracamonte believes the temple belonged to a previously-unknown intermediate civilization living in the area between 750 and 900 AD, after the Moche civilization and before the Lambayeque or Sican culture. This new group could have been the result of interaction between two. The positioning of the skulls facing the Andes, the arrangement of the bodies with their arms back and placed in alignment with the ramp in the temple were not “normal burials” and had never been seen in the other cultures, according to Bracamonte.
It's a transition stage, but we believe there may be a culture identify missing and now we need to look for evidence of temples, tools and ideology.
While the Incas were known for sacrificing children, usually after the death of a leader, Bracamonte says these were healthy, well-fed young women and the team found no indication why the sacrifices occurred.
Perhaps more will be morbidly uncovered when the excavations resume in March after the rainy season ends.