July 23, 2010

Ancient Sacrificial Chamber Discovered In Peru

Archaeologists have discovered what is believed to be an ancient ceremonial ground that was used for human sacrifices by members of a Pre-Columbian civilization, according to a Thursday report by Emily Schmall of Reuters.

"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," Carlos Wester La Torre, director of the Bruning Museum in Peru and a dig leader, told Schmall.

The Moche people were a primarily agricultural culture "that flourished between 100 B.C. and 800 A.D.," according to Schmall. The discovery of the sacrificial grounds seems to confirm existing theories that the Moche partook of a ceremony known as "the presentation" that featured "ritual killings of prisoners of war." Multiple skeletal remains were reportedly discovered on the floor of the chamber.

According to Schmall, "[Wester's] 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."

Most experts believe that the Moche civilization were not politically organized as a single state, but existed in smaller groups that shared a common culture. They are said to have been known for creating elaborately painted ceramics, gold work, huaca monuments and irrigation systems. By investigating some of their structures, archaeologists have been able to establish that the Moche were a fairly sophisticated people and were capable of mass producing a wide variety of pottery.

According to a BBC report entitled "The Lost Civilization of Peru," the Moche "were pioneers of metal working techniques like gilding and early forms of soldering. These skills enabled them to create extraordinarily intricate artifacts; ear studs and necklaces, nose rings and helmets, many heavily inlaid with gold and precious stones."

They also uncovered a macabre tradition that the Moche engaged in following victory in battle--one that the newly discovered hall likely played a major role in: "The vanquished were ritually sacrificed; their throats cut, the blood drained into a cup and the cup drunk by a God-like deity. It was, the archaeologists slowly realized, a story not of war but ritual combat followed by human sacrifice."


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