Science

Inca society 'mounted trophy heads' of their enemies in displays to show off their power


Child sacrifice seems to have been a relatively common occurrence in the cultures of ancient Peru, including the pre-Incan Sican, or Lambayeque culture and the Chimu people who followed them, as well as the Inca themselves.

Among the finds revealing this ritual behaviour are the mummified remains of a child’s body, discovered in 1985 by a group of mountaineers.

The remains were uncovered at around 17,388ft (5,300 metres) on the southwestern ridge of Cerro Aconcagua mountain in the Argentinean province of Mendoza.

Child sacrifice seems to have been a relatively common occurrence in the cultures of ancient Peru. Among the finds revealing this ritual behaviour were the mummified remains of a child's body (pictured), discovered in 1985 by a group of mountaineers

Child sacrifice seems to have been a relatively common occurrence in the cultures of ancient Peru. Among the finds revealing this ritual behaviour were the mummified remains of a child’s body (pictured), discovered in 1985 by a group of mountaineers

The boy is thought to have been a victim of an Inca ritual called capacocha, where children of great beauty and health were sacrificed by drugging them and taking them into the mountains to freeze to death.

Ruins of a sanctuary used by the Inca to sacrifice children to their gods was discovered by archaeologists in at a coastal ruin complex in Peru in 2016.

Experts digging at Chotuna-Chornancap, in north Lima, discovered 17 graves dating to at least the 15th century. This included the graves of six children placed side by side in pairs of shallow graves. 

Capacocha was a ritual that most often took place upon the death of an Inca king. The local lords were required to select unblemished children representing the ideal of human perfection.

Ruins of a sanctuary used by the Inca to sacrifice children to their gods was discovered by archaeologists in at a coastal ruin complex in Peru in 2016. Experts digging at Chotuna-Chornancap (pictured), in north Lima, discovered 17 graves dating to at least the 15th century

Ruins of a sanctuary used by the Inca to sacrifice children to their gods was discovered by archaeologists in at a coastal ruin complex in Peru in 2016. Experts digging at Chotuna-Chornancap (pictured), in north Lima, discovered 17 graves dating to at least the 15th century

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Children were married and presented with sets of miniature human and llama figurines in gold, silver, copper and shell. The male figures have elongated earlobes and a braided headband and the female figurines wore their hair in plaits.

The children were then returned to their original communities, where they were honoured before being sacrificed to the mountain gods on the Llullaillaco Volcano. 

The phrase Capacocha has been translated to mean ‘solemn sacrifice’ or ‘royal obligation.’

The rationale for this type of sacrificial rite has typically been understood as commemorating important life events of the Incan emperor, to send them to be with the deities upon their death, to stop natural disasters, to encourage crop growth or for religious ceremonies. 



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