LIFESTYLE

Inca sanctuary used for human sacrifices discovered in Peruvian Andes

CUZCO, PERU - JUNE 2007: Images of enormous rock structures at Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Inca ground overlooking Cuzco, Peru, 23 June 2007. The Inti Raymi festival is the most spectacular Andean festival with over 500 actors re-enacting the the ceremony of adoration of the Sun God, personified by the Inca. Thousands of people fill the great square of the fortress of Sacsayhuaman to re-enact the ceremony. The festival brings together all the different Andean communities and provides an opportunity for these communities to come together. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)

CUZCO, PERU - JUNE 2007: Images of enormous rock structures at Sacsayhuaman, an ancient Inca ground overlooking Cuzco, Peru, 23 June 2007. The Inti Raymi festival is the most spectacular Andean festival with over 500 actors re-enacting the the ceremony of adoration of the Sun God, personified by the Inca. Thousands of people fill the great square of the fortress of Sacsayhuaman to re-enact the ceremony. The festival brings together all the different Andean communities and provides an opportunity for these communities to come together. (Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.)  (2010 Getty Images)

Thanks to the use of satellite imaging technology, a group of Spanish scientists and researchers have uncovered a massive Inca sanctuary high in the Peruvian Andes that was once used for human sacrifices.

Located in the mountains of Vilcabamba, Peru – about 93 miles from the former Incan capital of Cusco – the site contains at least 55 enclosures that researchers believe to be tombs. The expedition also found evidence of human sacrifice in one part of the sanctuary.   

“The ruins, unknown to science until now and discovered through an investigation that included remote sensing techniques, may be from the Inca kingdom of Vilcabamba,” Spanish writer Miguel Gutiérrez Garitano, who led the expedition, told El País

“The evidence we have collected may show proof of the existence of the ritual Capacocha, or human sacrifices, in the high mountain area, which – according to experts – would be a revolutionary discovery.”

He added: “Moreover, very luckily, we also found an Inca cemetery with dozens of tombs inside caves.”

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Scientists believe that the human sacrifices and other important rituals were a common practice here during the Neo-Inca kingdom, but the site may have been built before that.

“Usually this type of ritual — where they mainly sacrificed virginal maidens but not necessarily only those – was performed to prevent famines or natural disasters, during some specific festivals or after the death of the Inca, for example,” Gutiérrez Garitano said.

He added: “We have found evidence indicating that the ritual of Capacocha may have been performed on this mountain. We have documented two building structures near the summit identical to those that emerged from the volcano Llullaillaco and that were supposedly used to prepare the children before the last ritual of the sacrifice. There is a stone platform nearby where those children may be buried.”

The team hopes to return in the summer of 2016 to continue their field work.

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