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Over 60 sacrificed children discovered at popular ancient Mayan city Chichén Itzá

Over 60 sacrificed children discovered at popular ancient Mayan city Chichén Itzá

New research has given some clues to the identities of some of the young people sacrificed in the Mayan times

Researchers have analyzed the remains that were discovered in at a mass burial site to make a dark discovery.

In 1967, builders were in the process of constructing an airstrip near the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá - located in Yucatan, Mexico - when they accidentally came across a mass grave containing the scattered bones of over 100 children.

Sacrifice was a huge part of the Mayan's religion, including the sacrifice of children's lives.

It's said that Maya priests in the city of Chichén Itzá sacrificed kids to petition the gods for rain and fertile fields by throwing them into sacred sinkhole caves.

"It was thought that the gods preferred small things and especially the rain god had four helpers that were represented as tiny people," Archeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan told Reuters in 2008.

"So the children were offered as a way to directly communicate with Chaac."

And now, several decades on from the remains being discovered at Chichén Itzá, scientists have retrieved and analyzed the DNA of 64 of the 106 children discovered in the 60s.

The ruins of the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza. (Jon G. Fuller/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
The ruins of the great Mayan city of Chichen Itza. (Jon G. Fuller/VW PICS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Of the 64 children, all of them were found to be male. Meanwhile, 25 percent were closely related to at least one other person within the chultun - this included two sets of identical twins.

The study, which was published on June 12, explained: "Genetic analyses showed that all analysed individuals were male and several individuals were closely related, including two pairs of monozygotic twins."

Going on to note the significance of the discovery of the twins in particular, the study continued: "Twins feature prominently in Mayan and broader Mesoamerican mythology, where they embody qualities of duality among deities and heroes, but until now they had not been identified in ancient Mayan mortuary contexts."

Sarcrificed people were often thrown into cenotes like this one near Chichén Itzá. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)
Sarcrificed people were often thrown into cenotes like this one near Chichén Itzá. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images for Lumix)

One myth in particular is 'Popol Vuh', where the researchers write that 'the twins Hun Hunapu and Vucub Hunahpu descend into the underworld and are sacrificed by the gods following defeat in a ballgame', before a second set of twins are born to avenge them by 'undergoing repeated cycles of sacrifice and resurrection to outwit the gods of the underworld'.

The bones that were analyzed are thought to date back between the 7th and 12th centuries.

Giving further insight into the people who were sacrificed, some of those found to be related to one another shared the same diet, suggesting that they will have lived together.

In regards to the ages of those who died, half of the remains were said to be the bodies of boys aged between three and six years old.

They all died over a 500-year period.

Featured Image Credit: HUGO BORGES/AFP via Getty Images / Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Topics: History, Science, News, Mexico