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The children used in the sacrifice included both boys and girls and ranged in age from four to 14.

They likely came from different regions and ethnic groups within the Chimú empire.

Another clue that points to a civilization in chaos was buried along with the bodies.

Unusual mud layers and preserved footprints near the graves suggest the sacrifice followed heavy rainfall.

Researchers say that the children were buried according to chronological age, often in groups of three.

In some cases, llama bodies were placed on top of child remains.

Finding an even bigger instance of mass child sacrifice is unusual, raising a number of questions about what drove the Chimú to massacre so many young boys and girls.

The researchers pieced together what they know so far in a paper published online in Anthropologist John Verano, who assisted with the excavation and analysis, said the death toll alone suggests that the Chimú performed the sacrifices in response to a catastrophic event.

A number of other Chimú sacrificial sites have been found in the area, but none were exclusively devoted to children.“We never expected to find a sacrifice site like this.

The Chimú empire, which flourished from 1100 to 1470, was conquered by the Inca not long after this mass child sacrifice occurred.

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