LIMA, Peru – A decapitated baby boy found on a hilltop near Lake Titicaca may have been killed last week in a human sacrifice ritual, police said Wednesday.
The remains of the infant, believed to have been 7 months old, were discovered Tuesday in the Yunguyo area near the Bolivian border, a police officer in the regional capital of Puno told The Associated Press.
Investigators believe the killing may have been a ritualistic sacrifice meant to appease a pre-Columbian earth god, because the body was found on the hilltop surrounded by flowers, liquor bottles and containers of blood.
Highland Indians consider many Andean hilltops to be the homes of deities. Tradition says the first Inca rose from Lake Titicaca.
Police were led to the remote rural site by villagers upset by the killing, which took place last week, police said.
Peruvian anthropologist Juan Ossio told the AP that human sacrifices date back to the Chavin culture, which flourished in Peru between 900-200 B.C. Human sacrifices remained an official part of Peruvian cultures until the Spanish conquered the Incas 500 years ago, he said.
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“Sacrifices were made for more than a thousand year and it is hard to get rid of deeply rooted beliefs,” he said.
Anthropologists occasionally encounter reports of human sacrifices while conducting research in Peru, although it is more common to hear about old people being buried alive in an effort to appease the earthen gods, he said.
The ritualistic killing of llamas in an effort to bring good crops is also common in the region around Lake Titicaca, he said.