It's a grim and possibly record-setting find in Peru: what archaeologists say could be the biggest single mass child sacrifice ever found. The current body count is 227, and that number could grow as archaeologists continue to work the site, which is near the seaside town of Huanchaco in northern Peru. "Wherever you dig, there's another one," the dig's head tells the AFP. What's not known is the year in which the children were killed, but the BBC reports there's evidence they were sacrificed during a wet season. Their ocean-facing burials suggest they were killed in an effort to placate the gods worshipped by the Chimú people, who dominated the region from 1200 to 1400. As for the children, they range in age from 4 to 14; some have retained their hair and skin.
In a lengthy February article, National Geographic took a look at what we know about the Chimú's child sacrifices. One passage: "Theirs may be the greatest empire that few have ever heard of, bookended in history by two civilizations that loom much larger in the popular imagination: the Moche, whose stunning murals depict the bloody sacrifice of war captives, and the Inca, who vanquished the Chimú around 1470, only to be conquered by Spanish invaders little more than 60 years later. The Chimú left no written records, so other than archaeological findings, what little is known of them comes from Spanish chronicles. ... They offer no hint that the Chimú practiced child sacrifice" on a large scale. "It's the luck of archaeology," one archaeologist involved in a previous dig that uncovered 140 bodies says, that we now know they did. (Read more archaeology stories.)