Inca Human Sacrifice

Inca Human Sacrifice

The Incas appeared in modern-day Peru, in the Cusco (or Cuzco) area, around 1200 AD.

Although a little less bloodthirsty than Aztecs, the Incas had also enslaved the indigenous people further south along the Andes. Human sacrifices were practiced by the Incas to ward off a danger, a famine, an epidemic. The victims were usually children, sometimes men and virgins. The victims were strangled or had their throat cut, sometimes their hearts were torn out in the Aztec way.

In parallel to what happened with Aztecs, contemporary scientific and archaeological research has confirmed the Spanish Conquistadors’ accounts and chronicles of human sacrifice, in particular child sacrifice.

The most important of these sources is Cristobal de Molina (1529 – 1585), who was a Spanish priest of the Hospital for the Natives of Our Lady of Succor in Cusco (today’s Peru) and a remarkable Quechua speaker.

His advanced skills in the Quechua language, spoken in the central Andes before the birth of the Inca Empire and also by the Incas, enabled him to interview the older indigenous men of Cuzco who were among the last surviving eyewitnesses of the Inca sacrifices. Thus, Molina’s account preserves a crucial first-hand record of Inca religious beliefs and practices.

His main work as a chronicler is Account of the Fables and Rites of the Incas, in which Molina describes the Inca religion, Inca gods and shrines, Inca mythology, Inca rituals, creation myths, sorcerers and other aspects of the Inca Empire. He includes even transcriptions of Quechua prayers.

Molina’s book, whose original title in Spanish is Relacion de las fabulas y ritos de los Incas, importantly describes the Capacocha ritual for child sacrifice followed by all the temples and shrines of the Inca Empire. This description has been repeatedly confirmed by modern scientific studies working on results of archaeological research.

The Inca “Socialist Regime”

An interesting aspect of the Inca Empire is described in the book A Socialist Empire. The Incas of Peru by Louis Baudin, very much appreciated by the influential economist Ludwig von Mises who penned a preface to one of its English editions.

The regime imposed by the Inca rulers on the indigenous populations they enslaved was a precursor of Marxist-style socialism.

As in 20th century Eastern Europe, private property and individual initiative were prohibited in the Andes of the 16th century; money and commerce did not exist; private life was subject to tough state regulation; people even had to dress in a similar way.

Add to this another touch: marriage was allowed only following the eugenic laws of the state, to avoid “racial contamination”.

Like any tyrannical system of this type, it was oppressive and didn’t work, so much so that the subjugated indigenous enthusiastically helped the few Spaniards who came providentially to get rid of it.

Examined Cases of Inca Human Adult and Child Sacrifice

Inca priests took children to high mountaintops for sacrifice, in an exceedingly long and arduous journey, feeding them coca leaves to increase the likelihood of their reaching the burial site alive, and then alcohol. They were killed by a blow to the head, strangulation, or simply by leaving them in the extreme cold where they would die of exposure.

Early colonial Spanish missionaries wrote about this practice but only recently have archaeologists such as Johan Reinhard begun to find the bodies of these victims on Andean mountaintops, naturally mummified due to the freezing temperatures and dry windy mountain air.

Examination by the use of high-resolution diachronic data of the frozen bodies of three children aged from 4 to 13, found in Argentina, revealed that coca and alcohol ingestion played a key part in the months and weeks leading up to the children’s deaths. These data, combined with archaeological and radiological evidence, threw new light on the Incan practice of child sacrifice that follows the Capacocha (or Qhapaq hucha) rite, crucial among Incas, described by the Spaniards, particularly Cristobal de Molina.

In another study, there is historical, archaeological, anatomical and pathological evidence for human sacrifice at the central Peruvian coastal site of Pachacamac of high numbers of both adult and children victims of Inca human sacrifice.

John Verano, of Tulane University’s Department of Anthropology, has also been involved in this kind of research.

Six frozen mummies of people sacrificed to Incan gods were found by archaeologists on a volcano in Peru, following previous similar discoveries. ABC says:

The Incas, whose empire covered most of the Andes along South America’s western coast before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, practiced human sacrifice to appease their gods.

Many mummies from Peru’s pre-Columbian Indian cultures have been found, but few have been frozen. Frozen mummies are better preserved and can reveal more information, scientists say.

Chimú Mass Child Sacrifice

More recently, archaeologists have discovered in northern Peru what has been described as “maybe the world’s largest mass child sacrifice”.

Over 140 children and 200 young llamas were probably sacrificed about 550 years ago on a low cliff over the Pacific Ocean, near Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú Empire, on a site known as Huanchaquito-Las Llamas.

Later the number of sacrificed children’s remains found rose to 269, with the discovery of another nearby site. Most of the victims were killed with a cut to the chest, perhaps to remove the heart.

So, these were not likely Inca sacrifices, but performed by another lesser-known pre-Columbian population who also inhabited Peru.

The Chimú predated and influenced the Incas, who assimilated aspects of Chimú culture.

Pre-Columbian Altar