Reconstructing the sequence of an Inca Period (1470-1532 CE) camelid sacrifice at El Pacífico, Peru

Luis Flores-Blanco, Alfredo J. Altamirano, Marco Villacorta, José M. Capriles, Flavio Estrada, Katia Herrera, Melchor Llosa, Eduardo Chávez, Carmela Alarcón

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Animal sacrifice has played an important role as a material expression of the ritual behavior practiced by different societies around the world. In the South American Andes, the ceremonial immolation of llamas is well documented by both ethnohistoric and ethnographic sources. Nevertheless, archaeological evidence of animal sacrifice remains poorly documented. In this paper, we report the burial of two young camelids from El Pacífico, a Formative Period ceremonial site located on the central coast of Peru. AMS radiocarbon dates suggest the ritual sacrifice occurred when the architecture of the site was no longer in use, around the time of the Inca conquest. Based on the presence of cut marks and fly pupae, we suggest that one of the camelids, a yearling llama, was sacrificed by removal of its heart and buried shortly thereafter. Similarly, given the location of cut marks and representation of skeletal parts, we infer that the second camelid was slaughtered for human consumption prior to burial. In accordance with documented Andean rites, archaeological evidence from El Pacifico suggests that practitioners of camelid sacrifice followed a behavioral script following the selection of the animal to its final interment. We hypothesize the costly performance of this ceremony at an ancestral sacred site was part of a social and political strategy for promoting intergroup social cohesion during the arrival of the Incas to the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103247
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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