Roughly 70 sacrifice victims have been found there so far—an indication of frequent human offerings. That alone suggests the slaughter of captured warriors rather than rare killings of elites to appease the gods in religious rituals, Verano says. The victims were killed, displayed, and later swept into pits.
“You don’t deny a proper burial, deflesh, mutilate, and turn your elites’ bones into trophies as they did [at Huacas de Moche],” says Verano, whose work has been partly supported by National Geographic Society grants. “You don’t make a drinking mug out of your elite [ruler’s] skull.”
Story: Dan Vergano, National Geographic | Photo: Dr. John Verano