Mummified Child Sacrifice Victims Discovered in 1,000-year-old Burial Pit

Eight mummified children discovered in a burial pit in Peru may have been ritual sacrifices, killed to accompany a nobleman or person of importance to the afterlife. The eight children were among the remains of 20 individuals uncovered at the site.

Forensic examination of the remains of the children found by the Cajamarquilla mummy—discovered last year—revealed evidence of violence, such as fractures, blows, and bruises, suggesting they would have been sacrificed as part of the funerary ritual.

The team that unearthed the Cajamarquilla mummy in the Jicamarca Valley, Lima in 2021, including the head of the research project Pieter Van Dalen Luna, believes that the discovery could rewrite what we know about the cultural history of ancient Peruvian societies.

Van Dalen Luna spoke about the discovery during a presentation of six of the eight funerary bundles of children, believed to be 1,000 to 1,200 years old and part of the Wari culture, at the Royal College of the National University of San Marcos on February 22.

He said: "We know that Andean societies had a series of funerary practices, rituals, and, from their worldview, they had a way of seeing the world that was completely different from ours.

"The conception of death was very important to them; It was a parallel world, the abode of the dead."

Peru Mummy
(Main) Six of eight funerary mummies found at an archaeological complex in Lima, Peru, presented in February. (Inset) The children were found next to the mummified remains of what is believed to have been a nobleman. The mummies are believed to be the remains of children sacrificed to accompany a nobleman to the afterlife between 1,000 and 1,200 years ago. CRIS BOURONCLE/UNMSM/GETTY

The Cajamarquilla project, which has been underway since October 2021, has revealed a series of ritual procedures like mummification, the placing of ropes around the body, and children found around the "main character" of the burial.

The mummified male, who has been named "Chabelo," is believed to have been a nobleman or political figure who is estimated to have been around 35-years-old when he died and was entombed, bound with rope with his hands covering his face.

The remains surrounding this mummy, including 12 non-mummified adults, are likely to be their children, wives, and their closest servants of Chabelo who were sacrificed to accompany him in transit to the world of the dead.

The team said, however, that there is the possibility—due to the number of infants found—that their death could have been the consequence of a disease that devastated the area during that period.

Below the tomb of Chabelo, the archeologists discovered a burial chamber with a woman and an infant surrounded by ceramic objects among other elements that are associated with funeral practices.

Other objects found in the tomb include food like corn and other vegetables, tools, and the remains of animals such as an Andean guinea pig and what appears to be a dog.

So far, just 1 percent of the archaeological complex consisting of four pyramids has been excavated, but the work is already revealing important details about the funerary practices of these societies located so close to Lima.

Yomira Huamán, who directs the research project in the complex, said in statement: "We want to see this clash of the different cultures because although Cajamarquilla is close to Lima, we are observing that many people from the high Andean area came here to do commercial exchange."

Remains of the individuals found at the burial site will now be radiocarbon dated and undergo DNA analysis as well as other laboratory studies in an attempt to discover more about them and elements of the culture they lived in such as the food they ate.