Ancient "Human Sacrifices" Found in Peru, Expert Says

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The bones were found beneath 31 inches (80 centimeters) of sand. "There was no evidence of disturbances caused by later occupations," Chu noted.

Media reports have claimed that Bandurria is the oldest settlement its kind in the Americas, though an even older urban site was announced in February.)

It is one of some 30 Pre-Ceramic sites located in the North Central coast, which Chu collectively referred to as "the cradle of Andean Civilization." (See photos of Inca ruins in Peru.)

Tom Pozorski, an archaeologist at the University of Texas-Pan American described the find by Chu's team as "an interesting discovery worthy of publication."

Chu said that, while Bandurria has yielded human remains in the past, this is the first time they show signs of ritualistic killing.

Winifred Creamer, an anthropologist at Northern Illinois University, said: "The find of individuals, evidently sacrifice victims, at Bandurria is significant, because there is not currently evidence of human sacrifice or warfare during the Pre-Ceramic [period]."

Creamer said the new discovery is "provocative" but added that the remains "are stimulating, rather than definitive, in suggesting the presence of sacrifice."

Tantalizing Find

Sloan Williams, a physical anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said, "While the findings are tantalizing, assuming that they are evidence of human sacrifice is premature."

"Ritual violence is only one of the possible explanations," she noted. Another may be secondary burial practices, which may explain the condition of the remains, Williams added.

To determine what happened, both the site and the bones must be studied further, she said.

Tulane University anthropologist John Verano described Chu's find as "interesting." But he added that theories about dismemberment should remain preliminary, pending an analysis of the femurs and neck vertebrae of the headless body.

"One needs to prove by cut marks or other physical evidence that a body was dismembered [before death]," he said. "Even then, theoretically, one could be dealing with sacrifice, execution, murder, or any of a number of human behaviors."

Shelia Pozorski, also an anthropologist at Texas-Pan American, said, "Bandurria is a truly incredible site, regardless of how the human remains come to be interpreted."

"The unusual remains just add more interesting data," she added.

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