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Archaeologists discover 'unusual' sacrifices of children and llamas

The findings come from an excavation site on the Peruvian coast.

John Verano, an anthropology professor at Tulane University, has spent his summers at digs in Peru for the last 30 years. But his most recent project might have his most surprising discovery yet — 600-year-old sacrifices of children and llamas.

"This is unusual, and not what we've seen before, especially on the coast of Peru," Verano told Phys.org. "What it means exactly, I'm not sure. But it is an exciting discovery."

Verano, along with Peruvian archaeologist Gabriel Prieto, first found evidence of child sacrifices in Huanchaquito, a coastal village in Peru, in 2011. They discovered the remains of 42 children and 76 llamas, which they suspect were sacrificed during a religious ceremony.

Verano and Prieto completed their study of the 2011 finds this year. They also expanded their dig, Phys.org reports, and the new excavation revealed more sacrificial victims. Huanchaquito is in an area once dominated by the Chimu state, from 1100 to 1470 C.E., until it was conquered by the Inca Empire, and Verano noted that it's an unlikely location for the finds.

Phys.org reports that the new findings will "allow for a more detailed reconstruction of this unusual event." The researchers speculate that the children may have been sacrificed as an offering to the sea after El Nino flooding, and the llamas were "intended to transport the victims to the afterlife."