The victims of human sacrifice by Mexico’s ancient Mayans, who threw children into water-filled caverns, were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, archeologists said on Tuesday.
Maya priests in the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula sacrificed children to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves, known as “cenotes.”
The caves served as a source of water for the Mayans and were also thought to be an entrance to the underworld.
Archeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan pieced together the bones of 127 bodies discovered at the bottom of one of Chichen Itza’s sacred caves and found over 80 percent were likely boys between the ages of 3 and 11.
The other 20 percent were mostly adult men said de Anda, who scuba dives to uncover Mayan jewels and bones.
He said children were often thrown alive to their watery graves to please the Mayan rain god Chaac. Some of the children were ritually skinned or dismembered before being offered to the gods, he said.
Archeologists previously believed young female virgins were sacrificed because the remains, which span from around 850 AD until the Spanish colonization, were often found adorned with jade jewelry.