An apparent ritual mass sacrifice—including decapitations and a royal beer bash—is coming to light near a pre-Inca pyramid in northern Peru, archaeologists say.
Excavations next to the ancient Huaca Las Ventanas pyramid first uncovered bodies in August, and more have been emerging since then from a 50-by-50-foot (15-by-15-meter) pit.
The pyramid is part of the Sicán site, the capital of the Lambayeque people—also known as the Sicán—who ruled Peru’s northern coast from about A.D. 900 to 1100.
Perhaps more than a hundred bodies—buried nude and some of them headless—lie in the newfound pit, according to Haagen Klaus, a bioarchaeologist at Utah Valley University in Orem who is studying the finds.
The bodies are almost all adult males, with the exception of two children, each accompanied by what appears to be an adult woman.
Despite the huge mass burial, the Sicán were not warmongers, Klaus stressed. Instead the Sicán culture used an economy based on trade to build an empire that, at its peak around A.D. 1000, spanned thousands of miles across what is now Ecuador and Peru. Read more.