The Chimú People of Peru Practiced Child Sacrifice on a Great Scale

Ruins of Chan Chan
Ruins of Chan Chan
Skeletal remains at the site (photo by "Archaeology" magazine)
Skeletal remains at the site (photo by "Archaeology" magazine)
Chimu vessel
Chimu vessel
Chimu mantel
Chimu mantel
Fish carvings at Chan Chan
Fish carvings at Chan Chan
Chimu art
Chimu art
Buildings and passages at Chan Chan
Buildings and passages at Chan Chan
Chimu god, Naymlap, on his boat
Chimu god, Naymlap, on his boat
Inner wall at Chan Chan
Inner wall at Chan Chan

When times were hard, something drastic seemed necessary



The country of Peru offers the most spectacular archaeological sites in South America, and certainly some of the best were built by the Chimor kingdom, whose people came to be known as the Chimú. Arising about A.D. 900, the Chimú created an artistic, architectural and cultural tradition that was the greatest of its time and place.

Moreover, like many of the ancient people of Peru, the Chimú, hoping to influence the fickle nature of the gods, practiced some form of human and/or animal sacrifice, at times sacrificing scores of children.

Let’s discover more about the Chimú, whose only rivals were the great Inca civilization. But even the Inca didn’t build South America’s greatest pre-Columbian city! Please keep reading:

History of the Chimú

The kingdom of Chimor arose from the remnants of the Moche civilization about A.D. 850, and the extent of the both civilizations was about the same - that is the relatively flat, desert strip in the northern coastal area of Peru, some 20 to 100 miles wide in places and immediately west of the Andes Mountains. The Chimú captured water from the rivers and streams emptying from the Andes and, using an extensive system of canals, created a great agricultural-based economy. Much aquatic life was also taken from the Pacific Ocean, where Peru’s fishing industry is still one of the most productive in the world.

Unlike the famous Inca, who worshipped the sun, the Chimú worshipped the moon, perhaps because the moon could be seen during the day and night. The moon deity was known as Pacasmayo. In fact, the Chimú considered the sun the destroyer, maybe because it seemed to have caused the harsh desert environment along the coast of Peru.

Over the centuries, the Chimú came to be known as some of the finest artisans of the time, producing a distinctive shiny black pottery in the image of people or animals. Also experts at metallurgy, the Chimú fashioned objects and decorations in gold, silver, copper, bronze and tumbago (copper and gold); they also produced beautiful and elaborate textiles made from alpaca wool.

Expansion of Empire

The Chimú didn’t greatly expand their dominion until the middle 1300s, when Taycanamo and his sons, particularly Nancen-pinco, conquered the cultures in neighboring valleys, all the way to the Jequetepeque Valley in the north and Carabayallo in the south. The Chimú didn’t meet their match until they encountered the forces of the phenomenal Inca Empire near what is now Lima, Peru in about 1460. Archaeologists disagree on how far south the Chimú expanded their rule.

The Capital City of Chan Chan

Similar to the Inca in their vast Andean empire, the Chimú collected taxes in labor, particularly as it related to the building and maintenance of canals and the management of agricultural production, all of which administered by the ruling hierarchy in walled cities such as Chan Chan, near the modern city of Trujillo. Interestingly, Chan Chan, covering an area of about 20 square kilometers, was the largest pre-Columbian city in South America and the most extensive adobe-built city in the world. It’s been estimated that about 30,000 people may have lived in Chan Chan at one time.

This sizable population could have included as many as 12,000 artisans, making Chan Chan the artistic capital of the Chimor kingdom as well.

Located just miles from the Pacific Ocean, Chan Chan was comprised of ten citadels, each of which may have contained ceremonial rooms, burial chambers, temples, reservoirs and residences, creating a labyrinth of passages, staircases, alcoves and doorways. The walls of the city were 50 to 60 feet high, though no buildings were open to the north, mainly to block the wind and absorb sunlight, warming the inhabitants to the frequent fog. The city was made of adobe brick, upon which a smooth layer was added so intricate carvings could be etched. These carvings represented animals or people in both realistic and stylistic designs.

Around 1100, the population of the city rose dramatically when a canal was built to the nearby Moche River, increasing the city’s water supply. But when a monstrous flood brought on by an El Niño weather pattern destroyed many of the city’s canals, the Chimú began to expand their civilization, hoping the wealth gained from foreign conquests could offset the losses from probable future natural disasters.

Child and Animal Sacrifice

According to the article “A Society’s Sacrifice,” found in the January/February 2012 issue of Archaeology, the Chimú, during times of great stress, ceremonially destroyed what was most valuable to them – children and camelids such as llamas. In August 2011, archaeologists uncovered the skeletal remains of numerous people and animals at the small coastal town of Huanchaquito, located just one-half mile from the ruins of Chan Chan. After two weeks of excavations, archaeologists discovered the skeletons of 43 humans and 76 camelids, the largest such sacrifice ever found in Peru.

Archaeologists quickly moved the remains to the Chan Chan museum so looters couldn’t destroy or steal these precious finds, giving analysts a chance to figure out why such a large sacrifice seemed necessary to the Chimor civilization. Most of the human skeletons were of children aged 12 to 15 years, their rib cages crushed, so their hearts could be extracted. This great sacrifice represented both the future (the children) and the current wealth of the Chimor kingdom in the form of llamas, the pack animals of the era and also used for food and wool.

Archaeologist Oscar Gabriel Prieto thinks the size of the sacrifice means the Chimú suffered some terrible disaster, making it necessary to appease the wrath of the gods. Possibly an El Niño event similar to the aforementioned one – or perhaps the same one! - caused a prolonged period of heavy rains, damaging canals, agriculture and fishing, so the Chimú felt they had to offer the best of their civilization.

On a related note, the remnants of a similar large sacrifice were found in 1968 at Huanchaco, another Chimú site in Peru.

Interestingly, the Inca also sacrificed children to their gods, dispatching them with clubs and leaving them atop Andean peaks in a ritual known as capachoca. Many mummies of such children have been found in modern times. Of course, child sacrifice has been practiced by numerous cultures throughout history.

Afterword

The Chimú met their match between 1462 and 1470, at which time they clashed for many years with the powerful Inca Empire. When Minchancaman, the last ruler of the Chimú was finally defeated, the Inca moved him and the Chimor kingdom’s gold and silver to the Inca capital of Cuzco, augmenting the spectacular wealth found in their Temple of the Sun. Notably, not much is known about these battles between the Chimú and Inca, because no pre-Columbian written language was ever developed in South America!

Nevertheless, archaeologists continue to shed light on the fabulous culture of the Chimú people, who dominated an impressive portion of Peru before Inca dominance held sway. And, like most ancient Andean cultures, the Chimú felt the need to sacrifice their young during difficult times.

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rai2722 profile image

rai2722 4 years ago

Great article on the CHimu civilization. Very thorough and interesting. vote up and awesome.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, rai2722. I'm glad I got this one in just before the new year. Later!


Ed Michaels profile image

Ed Michaels 4 years ago from Texas, USA

Wonderful. Thanks for the information. I always like reading that which can teach me something new in an area I have not previously researched myself.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Ed Michaels, I really love to write about archaeology. Can't you tell? Later!


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Wonderful article! Early South American civilizations and their human sacrifices have been a topic of discussion lately in one of my Facebook groups - so I shared this there.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, Wesman Todd Shaw. I could certainly use all the input I can get from Facebook connections. Later!


vespawoolf profile image

vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

Your hub is well written and accurate. Interestingly there's a movement in Peru, a group reverting to the religion of their ancestors, which says child sacrifice was never practiced. They say the skeletal remains of children are the result of a natural disaster. Of course, there are too many skeletons to support that sort of an argument but it's interesting nonetheless.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, vespawoolf. I love to hear from someone who's spent time in Peru, my favorite country in South America. Anyway, it seems revisionist religious types will always be with us - even on other continents. Later!


steve8miller profile image

steve8miller 16 months ago from Ohio Great City of Dayton

Having an occult background I will say this. If the people knew who was sacrificing by blood and fire still to this day they would revolt. Just look at all the missing children in National Parks in America where do people think they go?

Look up General Buttnaked. Funny name yes, but he worshiped a certain demon that would lead him to slaughter nearly 20,000 people. He will tell you if you listen what is going on here in America and around the world. He sacrificed children and drank their blood as well. His story is one of hope he found Jesus Christ!

His story is almost biblical in its ramifications, reminding me of the story of Saul to Paul.

He also changed his name to Joshua one of my favorite old testament books and it shows his knowledge of the bible prior to his finding Christ. He actually tells the world everything, but if you do not have Christ in your heart and the holy spirit guiding you by the loving grace of God you will miss this great modern miracle.

His words to the masses go something like this when he found Christ and turned himself in to the War Crimes Commission? He said this. Secrets and secret societies are evil, when a government practices deceit it is practicing evil. His quote was even better that's just off the top of my head.

When the world wakes up and understands that the people giving the news, the people you see on the television are slaves. Slaves to demons neither I nor they care who believes this, because it is just how it is. If I could tell people one thing it would be this God is real, Christ is real, the Holy spirit is in us all. Accept Jesus today for tomorrow is not promised especially in these ever growing evil times.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 16 months ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, steve8miller. People can believe whatever they want, right? Later!

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