The next time you complain about having to stand too long during a church service or being required to kneel on hard floors, remember the story of these poor kids in 14th century Peru who had their feet cut off during a religious ceremony … and that was before they were sacrificed to a god who apparently believed footless children made good guards. On the other hand, you may envy the job of one of the adults buried with them. He was in a place of honor as the designated coca-leaf chewer.
Archaeologist Carlos Wester La Torre of the Peru Culture Ministry’s Unidad Ejecutora (Implementation Unit) discovered at least 13 graves recently at the Chotuna-Chornancap site in the region of Lambayeque. Lambayeque is on the northwestern Pacific coast of Peru and was a center for the pre-Incan Chimú culture.
According to local mythology, nine warriors manned a flotilla of balsa rafts under a man named Naymlap, whose descendants became the Moche and the Chimú. The Chimú worshiped the god Lambayeque (Yampellec) and established an advanced urban society centered around gold, which probably led to its conquest by the Incas, who were then conquered for the same reason by Francisco Pizarro and the Spaniards.
The Chotuna-Chornancap site is a Chimú temple and pyramid complex. The most prominent person buried in the 13 graves appears to be a Chornancap priestess, who was interred with a copper mask, jewelry, other offerings and a gold scepter. Surrounding the priestess are the graves of six children buried in pairs facing north, east and west. The two facing west were the unlucky ones, according to Wester La Torre.
It appears the feet had been removed intentionally, suggesting they had been sacrificed as an offering and used as ‘guardians’ of the graves.
The site showed evidence that the children, along with the adults buried there, had been sacrificed. Paintings there depicted people holding decapitated heads. To make it seem like it wasn’t so bad, one man was buried with a vessel showing that he was a “coquero” – a coca leaf-chewer. Another showed a man smiling. Religious propaganda goes back a long way.
The archaeological excavations in this season have begun to yield results that allow us to reconstruct the function of places such as Chornancap. Since the discovery of the priestess’ grave, the site has continued to reveal the complexity of ceremonies and rituals that took place at the temple.
That’s a nice archeological way of describing human sacrifices and footless children, Carlos.