The Inca shrine where CHILDREN were sacrificed: Human remains found in caves may have been offerings to the gods during times of extreme weather
- The ruins are thought to have belonged to the lost Vilcabamba Kingdom
- They appear to date to the time of an Incan ruler between 1471 and 1493
- Ruins resemble similar sites elsewhere in Peru used for human sacrifice
- Nearby caves were found to have been used as a necropolis for victims
Ruins of a sanctuary used by the Inca civilisation to sacrifice children to their gods is believed to have been discovered in a remote mountain range in Peru.
A team of Spanish explorers stumbled upon the religious complex in the Vilcabamba mountains, 93 miles (150km) north of the Peruvian city of Cusco.
The researchers also found a system of caves near the ruins that had been used as necropolis to bury the victims of the sacrificial rituals.
A team of explorers has discovered a complex of buildings and a necropolis they believe was used by the Inca for human sacrifices. They found human remains (pictured) in a complex of caves close to the ruins
This system of caves is thought to date to the time of Túpaq Inca Yupanqui, the tenth ruler of the Inca civilisation between 1471 to 1493.
Under his rule, child sacrifices to the gods were carried out in times of drought and natural disasters in the hope good fortune would return.
CAPACOCHA: RITUAL OF DEATH
Capacocha was a ritual that took place upon the death of an Inca king.
The local lords were required to select unblemished children representing the ideal of human perfection.
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 plaited.
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 discovery was made by members of the Mars Gaming Expedition, led by brothers Miguel and Rafael Gutierrez Garitano.
The pair spent three weeks exploring the remote part of the Peruvian Andes known as Vilacabamba, or Willkapampa.
Miguel Garitano, director of the expedition, said: ‘The more I travelled, the more I realised how unexplored this region was.
‘What we could never have imagined was that it would be such a large ceremonial complex.’
The ruins of the settlement are located around 3 miles (5,000 metres) above sea level.
The team were able to pinpoint it using satellite images before travelling through dangerous territory controlled by the Shining Path guerrillas.
Local stories of Inca ruins in the area had also helped the team find the location.
In total, the team found 50 structures thought to be dedicated to worship.
These included ruins of rectangular enclosures known as a kancha – a main building that was 72ft (22 metres) long, with five smaller structures surrounding it in a square.
The ruins were found in the Willkapampa mountain range – also known as the Vilcabamba mountains – in the Peruvian Andes (illustrated) to the north of Cusco and the famous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu
The tombs are thought to contain the remains of children who were sacrificed to the gods during times of adversity. A nearby platform and buildings resemble similar sites found elsewhere in Peru
The team also found a platform of rocks close to the ruins.
Rafael Garitano told Spanish news site El Mundo the team had also found caves that appear to have been used as a necropolis.
‘I found it by chance. I was going down a hill when I saw a hole covered with branches. I thought it was not natural, I made my way and saw the skeleton of an Inca,’ he explained.
Members of the Mars Gaming Expedition spent three weeks exploring the Vilcabamba region in Peru (pictured)
Several caves (pictured) in the area contained human remains and appear to have been used as necropolis
The expedition found the ruins of several rectangular buildings (pictured) they believe were used for human sacrifices
‘Then we explored the hill and saw that there were dozens of tombs. It was a great necropolis.’
The high platform and graves led the explorers to conclude it was a site for human sacrifice.
Similar structures have been discovered throughout Peru and Argentina.
The new ruins are thought to have formed part of the mysterious Kingdom of Vilcabamba, the last Inca nation.
However, attempts to explore the region in detail have hampered by the security situation in the area.
The Shining Path guerrillas and Peruvian government have been at war in recent years.
Local drug lords also hindered the expedition.
The team hope to return next year to complete the expedition.
The Inca used children aged around the age of eight for human sacrifices in a ritual called Capacocha.
Historian Carmen Martin Rubio said: ‘For the Incas, death was just a passage into another life and the chosen ones were always children because they were considered pure’.
‘They were carefully chosen from good families.’
However, she added that the children’s death was often painless.
‘They didn’t feel anything because they were sedated with coca and when they were asleep they were exposed to temperatures of around -20°C and they froze to death,’ she said.
The ruins (pictured) are thought to have been part of the Kingdom of Vilcabamba, from the time of Túpaq Inca Yupanqui, the tenth ruler of the Inca civilisation between 1471 to 1493
The expedition also found a distinctive stone platform (pictured) but have been unable to excavate it further
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