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Geoffrey
10-01-2002, 07:52 PM
Peru Finds 200 Fishermen Sacrificed to Sea God
Tue Oct 1, 9:08 AM ET
By Missy Ryan

HUARMEY, Peru (Reuters) - The Pacific Ocean had always been the fishermen's lifeblood -- until the day they knelt blindfolded before its blue waters and the knife pierced their hearts, making them offerings to Ni, the god of the sea.


http://us.news2.yimg.com/us.yimg.com/p/nm/20020930/mdf115884.jpg


In the biggest find of human sacrifices in South America to date, archeologists have uncovered the remains of 200 fishermen savagely stabbed on a beach in central Peru 650 years ago.

"This is the first time that human sacrifices on this scale have been documented," said Hector Walde, chief archeologist for the Punta Lobos project, holding a discolored skull recovered from a beach some 170 miles north of Lima.

Archeologists say the fishermen were knifed through the collarbone -- straight into the heart -- in a giant human sacrifice ceremony by members of the powerful Chimu people as a sign of gratitude to their revered sea god Ni after they conquered the fishermen's fertile seaside valley in 1350 A.D.

The remains of the 107 intact bodies were found lying on their stomachs, their heads toward the water and their hands tied behind their backs.

Unwrapping a leg bone with cracked, blackened flesh at the end, Walde said the discovery was important because it confirmed a long-standing theory, based on testimonies and etchings on stone temples or ceramics, that some cultures in this archeology-rich nation practiced large ritual killings.

"It's impressive to think that even though 600 years have gone by, the pain and anguish these people went through when they died can be seen in the cadavers and even the outlines they left in the sand," he said.

Many of the fishermen, believed to be between 18 and 35 years old, were found arched backward as if in their death throes. Despite the passage of time, they were found in varying states of decay -- some just bones and rags, others complete with muscle tissue, hair, even fingernails.

The fishermen were blindfolded with the turban they used to control their flowing black hair and wore only a loincloth. Their bodies, left unburied by the Chimu and later covered up by wind-driven sand, were not accompanied by the kind of ornate offerings often found with high-caste or sacred burials.

RICH CULTURAL HERITAGE

Peru is known for a wealth of highly developed now-extinct cultures like the Inca, who built the famed citadel Machu Picchu -- now a major attraction for tourists from all over the world -- and whose legendary gold treasures spurred a frenzied invasion from Spanish conquistadors.

Or the Nazca culture, who 1,500 years ago etched giant figures of birds and spiders in the sand. Only visible from the air, some say the etchings were meant as greetings to aliens.

But little was known about how the Chimu, who were eventually defeated by the Inca decades before the Spanish invasion in the 1530s, treated the other cultures they conquered during the height of their 150 years in power.

At their peak, the Chimu -- known as the finest metalworkers of pre-Hispanic Peru and whose leaders wore emerald-encrusted gold nose rings -- controlled some 600 miles of Pacific coast.

"This confirms that the Chimu were part of a long religious tradition that included human sacrifices in their ceremonies," Walde said, adding that as the Chimu empire grew, the frequency and scale of human sacrifices increased as well.

Walde and his team of experts stumbled across the find in 1998 when they were performing obligatory archeology impact studies for a port project for copper-zinc mine Antamina. Their discovery was made public only recently.

At first they thought the partially decomposed bodies they found on the beach some 170 miles north of Lima were part of an ordinary cemetery like the thousands of other nearby graves. But as they examined the remains, they realized they were looking at something unprecedented.

"The position that the fishermen were in -- face down, their hands tied and faces covered -- made us think that this was no ordinary (death)," he said. "It was very dramatic."

According to Walde, the fishermen's feet, some of which were also bound, are the best preserved parts of their bodies. The bodies were all found with knees bent and feet upward, he said, to drain out organic liquids that can decay flesh.

Of the 200 fishermen found near one another on the beach, 107 were recovered intact. The others had been mutilated by invaders and thrown into a mass grave nearby, or were destroyed over the years by grave robbers.

Archeologists say that those who survived the invasion -- the wives and children of the sacrificed fishermen, or older people -- made a giant offering nearby of everyday items the fishermen could use in the next life, including simple jugs filled with grains or liquor, even a fishing net.

PROJECT SPONSORED BY ANTAMINA

The remains of the fishermen sacrificed are now stored in a tiny warehouse of a museum in the nearby town of Casma until Antamina builds an on-site museum near the beach.

Antamina, which is owned by Anglo-Australian BHP Billiton, Canada's Noranda Inc. and Teck-Cominco Ltd. and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp., is a key project for this mineral-rich nation.

After the remains were removed from Punta Lobos, the beach was destroyed to make way for a port installation for Antamina, which pipes minerals down to the sea from the highland mine.

The government of President Alejandro Toledo, who took office last year, says Antamina is expected to generate 1.4 percent economic growth this year.

The mining company has so far spent around $100,000 on the Punta Lobos project, Walde said. It said it will fund further excavations, for example, in nearby temples built by the Chimu, as well as the sacrifice museum.

Archeologists are also hoping to take DNA samples from the hair, skin and teeth of the fishermen to determine, for example, if the inhabitants of today's Huarmey -- a quiet fishing town of around 24,000 people -- are descended from those sacrificed hundreds of years ago.

Using that information, they hope to be able to identify hereditary diseases or physical traits passed on from generation to generation.

"We've obtained a lot of new information but there are still lots of holes. We are going to try to plug those holes with more investigations," Walde said.

Cd.
10-01-2002, 07:55 PM
I find storys like this to be very upsetting. That human lives are to be destroyed to satisfy superstision is pathetic. All the same its a fascinating story.

Manu
10-02-2002, 12:40 AM
Criminal-

Purely hypothetical question. Let us say it was not superstition. Let us say that the gods existence and his request for sacrifice was proven to exist.

Would you feel it was a waste then?

TryckPony
10-02-2002, 12:49 AM
I found this really fascinating. To me this is much more interesting than the acheological digs in Egypt. It's pretty easy for people now to judge those who considered sacrifices to gods as ignorant savages, but realistically, many ancient cultures used sacrifice as a means to appease gods.

Cd.
10-02-2002, 08:52 PM
Originally posted by Manu
Criminal-

Purely hypothetical question. Let us say it was not superstition. Let us say that the gods existence and his request for sacrifice was proven to exist.

Would you feel it was a waste then? I guess. I only hope that the victums were willing participants in this exercise. One may say that Jesus was a sacrificial victum but at least he accepted his fate willingly.

Cd.
10-02-2002, 09:02 PM
Originally posted by TryckPony
I found this really fascinating. To me this is much more interesting than the acheological digs in Egypt. It's pretty easy for people now to judge those who considered sacrifices to gods as ignorant savages, but realistically, many ancient cultures used sacrifice as a means to appease gods.
An interesting thing about human sacrefice is that it was practiced by ancient civilizations around the world. It is usually done by agracultural societies. For instance, hunter gather societies such as the Bushmen or Australian Aborigonees never practice sacrefice. Human sacrefice was part of fertility cults.