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Remains Found of Woman Sacrificed to Mitigate “El Niño” Effects in the Fifteenth Century

By Dialogo
July 16, 2009

Lima, 13 July (EFE).- A fifteenth-century woman belonging to the Chimú culture was buried alive in the archeological complex of Chan Chan, in northern Peru, to mitigate the effects of the “El Niño” weather phenomenon, the National Institute of Culture (INC) revealed today. “This is the first time that evidence has been found that some inhabitants were buried alive during that period, in this case in order to ward off the possible effects of the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon on the mud-built city,” the director of Executive Unit 110 of the INC, Cristóbal Campana, explained to the state press agency Andina. The skeletal remains of the woman, who was between twenty-two and twenty-three years old, were found during restoration work on the western perimeter wall of the “Ñain An” Palace or “House of the Birds,” part of Chan Chan’s mud-built citadel. This archeological complex has been recognized by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage site, but it is also on the list of heritage sites in danger due to the fragility of its structures, as a result of the effect of rain and the intense heat in the region. Chan Chan is one of the most important ceremonial centers in northern Peru and is located 570 kilometers north of Lima. The remains are of a woman 1.55 meters tall who was strangled and buried alive, as determined from the position of her upper limbs and jaws, which reflect a desperate struggle to free herself from the fabric knotted around her neck, the agency press release added. In addition, the victim suffered the amputation of both her feet, in the same way that the Chimú amputated both feet of guardians sacrificed in another palace in the same area. Nevertheless, the press release did not explain how it was known that this sacrifice was related to the feared meteorological phenomenon. Campana indicated that the remains would be removed this week from a structure that has been protecting them from the sun and the rain and taken to the INC’s laboratory in the department of La Libertad, where Chan Chan is located.