Washington, June 5 : Archaeologists have found evidence of three possible ancient human sacrifice victims at a 4,000-year-old site in Peru.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the apparently mutilated, partial skeletons could overturn the peaceful reputation of the Pre-Ceramic period (3000 B.C. to 1800 B.C.) in the Andes Mountains-a time generally seen as free of ritualized killing and warfare.
The bones were found beneath 31 inches (80 centimeters) of sand.
"We found two pairs of legs-probably young females around their 20s-and the decapitated body of a young male in his 20s," said Alejandro Chu Barrera, who led the dig. "They appear to have been ritually killed," he added.
Chu told National Geographic News that his team had discovered the human offerings while excavating one of the circular plazas found at Bandurria.
Media reports have claimed that Bandurria is the oldest settlement of 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."
"The newly discovered remains were left by people who were part of a Pre-Ceramic society that had no exact name," he said.
According to Chu, the find is significant because many researchers have characterized the Pre-Ceramic period as very peaceful, with no evidence of the kind of violence that was seen during the (later) Moche (A.D. 100 to 800) time of human sacrifices and mutilations.
While Bandurria has yielded human remains in the past, this is the first time they show signs of ritualistic killing.
"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)," said Winifred Creamer, an anthropologist at Northern Illinois University.
Creamer said that though the new discovery is "provocative", but the remains "are stimulating, rather than definitive, in suggesting the presence of sacrifice."