Peru archaeologists find hall for human sacrifice

LIMA Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:40pm EDT

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LIMA (Reuters) - An ancient ceremonial ground used by a Pre-Columbian civilization for human sacrifices has been uncovered on Peru's northern coast, archaeologists said on Thursday.

The discovery appears to reinforce prevailing theories about a ceremony known as "the presentation" that was carried out by the Moche people, an agricultural civilization that flourished between 100 B.C. and 800 A.D.

Carlos Wester La Torre, director of the Bruning Museum in Peru and a leader of the dig, said the ceremonial site likely hosted ritual killings of prisoners of war.

Photographs taken at the site show more than half a dozen skeletons on the floor of the hall.

"There was a great ceremonial hall or passage integrated into the rest of the architecture that establishes the presence of certain figures of the Moche elite and also the practice of complex rituals such as human sacrifice," Wester told Reuters.

His team uncovered a 60-meter-long (197-foot-long) corridor opening up to face three equidistant porticos and five thrones on the archaeological site's main pyramid.

The remnants of a mural found within the corridor depict three high priests whose ornamentation confirms the involvement of the culture's political leadership in the ceremony, he said.

Peru is believed to be one of the places in the world where agriculture first developed and has hundreds of ancient archaeological sites, including the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

(Reporting by Emily Schmall; Editing by Terry Wade and Sandra Maler)

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