Archaeologists in Peru have discovered what they believe could be evidence of the world's largest known incidence of child sacrifice.
Archaeologists were first alerted to the human remains after residents of the Peruvian city of Trujillo found weathered skeletons protruding from a bluff near their houses in the La Libertad neighborhood in 2011.
Quilter is reportedly heading a team of scientists who will analyse DNA samples from the children's remains to see if they were related and figure out which areas of the Chimú empire the sacrificed youth came from.
Until now it was thought that the largest case of mass child sacrifice occurred in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan - modern day Mexico, where it was discovered 42 children's body.
"It is ritual killing, and it's very systematic", one of the researchers, John Verano of Tulane University, told National Geographic.
This child's face was painted with a red cinnabar-based pigment and the archaeologists believe that their chest was cut open to remove the heart as part of a sacrificial ceremony.
According to Prieto, researchers also found footprints that have survived rain and erosion and he said that the small footprints indicate the children were marched to their deaths from the ancient city of Las Llamas - Chan Chan, for about approximately 1 mile.
About 200 18-month old llamas were also sacrificed with the children. Archeologist have been exploring the dig site known as "Huanchaquito-Las Llamas" since 2011 when locals found human remains there.
The skeletal remains of more than 140 children and 200 baby llamas were found on the country's northern coast. The researchers think the adults may have performed the ritual killings then were executed shortly after. The three adults discovered had blunt-force trauma to the pinnacle and no grave, main scientist to imagine they, too, have been a part of the sacrifice.
As Haagen Klaus, an anthropologist at George Mason University, told National Geographic, when faced with imminent destruction, "people sacrifice that which is of most and greatest value to them".
The layer of mud, which held fossilized footprints of the children and the llamas, suggests there was severe rain and floods on the typically dry coastline, which is often affected by El-Nino, the researchers said. But evidence of mass sacrifices of children are not many.
"Las Llamas is already such a unique site in the world, and it makes you wonder how many other sites like this there may be out there in the area for future research", says Prieto. "Maybe there was a need for a new type of sacrificial victim". They had all apparently died of violent head wounds, and it is surmised they may have participated in the sacrifices.
Prieto also suggested that "this just may be the tip of the iceberg".