The Incas were the largest ethnic group in the New World and were masters of their natural surroundings. Their empire alone spanned 2,500 miles long across what is now southern Colombia to central Chile and reigned for almost 100 years.
They had many great achievements in architecture and agricultural and would come to be known as having a political and administrative structure that was the most sophisticated found among native peoples in the Americas.
However, apart from their magnificently built city in the sky built 8,000 ft up in the Andes, thousands of miles of roads, celestial observatories and structures, it would be discovered that they also had sacrificial altars, proving that human sacrifices were common practice during their reign.
In fact, the practice of child sacrifice in Pre-Columbian cultures has been well documented in both archaeological records and other written sources. The exact reason for child sacrifice remains unknown. And it has come to be believed that they were performed to appease certain gods such as the sun god, Inti. They may have believed that these rituals made agricultural possible despite the otherwise harsh elements of the region.
Sacsayhuaman archaeological site
The people also worshipped the Inca ruler who they considered to be the son of the sun god. Inca emperors were also revered and believed to be celestial. To create and maintain mutual relationships with their gods, the Incas offered numerous gifts or prayers. These gifts ranged from coca leaves and woven cloth to animals, food, blood and, in the ultimate gesture of sacrifice, human beings.
These offerings to the gods were performed during times of severe earthquakes, eruption of volcanoes, or when famine struck. They believed the gods had control over their natural environment. Priests sacrificed captured warriors or perfectly raised and formed children to the gods. Because they believed in the afterlife, they also had faith that these sacrificed humans would go on to exist in a far better state of being.
Children were believed to be the purest of beings and for this reason, were selected as sacrificial victims.
The practice of human sacrifice was called Qhapaq hucha and the Inca performed child sacrifices during or after important events. One of these events was to honor the Sapa Inca or emperor. Discoveries of the remains of these children sacrifices who were young as 6 and as old as 15 revealed that these children were physically fit and quite healthy before their demise.
In 1999, it was the mummified remains of a 15 year old Inca girl that shed the most light on the practice of child sacrifices. Because she was in near pristine condition for a corpse, they could tell she was finely dressed and was an otherwise healthy girl. In fact, over the years and many more discovered of these sacrificed children, archaeologists would have evidence that these children were fattened up with an elite diet that consisted of animal protein and maize before the sacrifice pilgrimage. They were then dressed in fine clothing and jewelry, escorted to Cusco to a feast that was in their honor to meet the emperor.
The Incan high priests would then take the chosen child on a long and difficult journey to a high mountaintop. They were fed coca leaves that would aid their breathing so they could reach the burial site alive. Upon reaching the sacrificial site, children were given an intoxicating drink that was meant to minimize pain and fear, but mostly resistance. They were then killed with either a sharp blow to the head, strangulation, or by simply leaving them to lose die due to the extreme cold of the elements.
The Incas were so determined to ensure the survival of their race and longevity of their empire that they closely monitored nature and attempted to gain control of it, by all means, necessary, even if it meant human sacrifice.
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