Dozens of Girls Found Sacrificed

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July 14, 2009—Many of the 33 mummies uncovered near Chiclayo, Peru, were those of girls—a rarity, experts say. Their throats slit, the girls were probably killed in a bid for agricultural fertility. Video.

© 2009 National Geographic (AP)

Unedited Transcript

Research into 33 mummies discovered in Peru has revealed most of the bodies were girls, most likely sacrificed in the belief their deaths would bring fertility to the peoples farmlands.

Utah Valley University professor Haagen Klaus is an expert in bio-archaeology and has been examining the human remains found in 2007 at the Chotuna Huaca, a site located north east of Chiclayo, Peru.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Haagen Klaus, Anthropologist, Utah Valley University: "Majority of them were sacrificed using a very sharp bladed instrument, probably a copper or bronze tumi knife. And for the majority there are several combinations, a complex set of variations on cutting of the throat."

According to the Associated Press, it wasn't until a few moths ago that all of the human remains were uncovered.

While mass sacrifice was common in Andean pre-Hispanic cultures, it is rare to find such a large number of sacrificed people together in one place.

Klaus says the sacrifices were made to ensure rain and agricultural fertility.

Another element that made this discovery so unusual was that most of the mummies were females.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Haagen Klaus, Anthropologist, Utah Valley University: "So, the blood sacrifice of a large group of women is something that is very, very unusual. It's the first time that we've ever seen this. Regarding the biology of these people, there are certain aspects of their biology that reveal certain parts of lives they've led and their identity. It's quite likely that these people are not the members or coming from the Chimu or the Inca societies. Those were the ruling powers in Lambayeque during the time these sacrifices were committed. It is quite likely that these were a local people."

30 of the 33 bodies were female and the majority hadn't reached 15-years-old and some of the mummies were children no older than nine.

Klaus explained that in Andean society children were not considered human beings.

SOUNDBITE: (English) Haagen Klaus, Anthropologist, Utah Valley University: "This is something, of course, very non-Western. And in the cosmological vision here, kids, children are not human beings because human life comes from mountains. And when a child is born, a child is likened to a wild uncontrollable mountain spirit."

The mummies were in an excellent state of conservation, many still with their hair and teeth intact.

Klaus was able to extract DNA, learn about the illnesses they had, their diets, their ages, causes of death and even possible kinships among the mummies.

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