Exclusive: What May be World’s Largest Ancient Mass Child Sacrifice Discovered in Peru

Evidence for the largest single incident of mass child sacrifice in the Americas— and likely in world history— has been discovered by National Geographic Explorers on Peru’s northern coast.

More than 140 children and 200 young llamas appear to have been ritually sacrificed in an event that took place some 550 years ago on a wind-swept bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, in the shadow of what was then the sprawling capital of the Chimú Empire.

While incidents of human sacrifice among the Aztec, Maya, and Inca have been recorded in colonial-era Spanish chronicles and documented in modern scientific excavations, the discovery of a large-scale child sacrifice event in the little-known pre-Columbian Chimú civilization is unprecedented in the Americas—if not in the entire world. What could have caused this unprecedented event?

Scientific investigations by the international, interdisciplinary team, led by National Geographic Explorers Gabriel Prieto of the Universidad Nacional de Trujillo and John Verano of Tulane University, are ongoing.

Read the full National Geographic story here.

Kristin Romey, National Geographic archaeology expert, is available for interviews out of Washington, D.C.

National Geographic Explorers Gabriel Prieto and John Verano are also available for interviews.

Press Contact:

Kelsey Taylor, kelsey.taylor@natgeo.com, 202-912-6776