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Friday, March 29, 2019


by Marshall Witten

In the north of Peru archaeologists found a mass grave. Over 500 years ago, almost 140 children and more than 200 animals were sacrificed here. Researchers are now reporting on the background of the bloody ritual. According to the researchers, details of the site also reveal the possible reason for the ritual: it is covered by a thick layer of mud, into which the mass grave was embedded. Footprints and hoof prints show that the mud was still wet at the time of the sacrifice. The researchers suspect that the actually very dry place was hit by heavy rainfall and flooding at that time. This leads them back to the climate phenomenon El Niño, which continues to cause flooding in the coastal region to this day. "The sacrifice of so many children and camels was a significant investment of resources for the Chimú state," they write. "The temptation to assume that the mass sacrifice of children and camels was an attempt to appease the gods and mitigate the effects of a larger El Niño event that occurred around 1400-1450." Teller Report, March 7, 2019

The photo bares a 15th century open
Peru grave in desert sand, egg shaped, two
children snuggled together, headdresses, red-
cinnabar paint on their skulls, facing east
toward the coast, 140 victims,                                                      
both sexes, at a ritual-massacre site.
Victims’ chests cut open, hearts ripped out.    
200 baby llamas also sacrificed,
buried facing west toward the Andes.

Evidence hints a disastrous El Niño caused
torrential rains, vast flooding, killing mud
flows, buried cropland, ruined fisheries, farmers’
deaths, civil terror that supported mass sacrifices.

I saw, superimposed over the picture, images
of Yemeni children killed by our drone strikes,

of young Guatemalan children separated from parents
cuddled in blankets at our border, caged.

The Yemeni we kill for oil.
The Guatemalans we tear from parents, psychologically damage,
and sometimes cause death, for votes, racial fear.

Like the Chimú, our child murder-cruelty rests
on fear of change. What might we do when climate
horrors really pinch, food-water shortages,
constant weather cataclysms, civil collapse,
Bikers for T patrolling the streets?

Unsheathed gods of fear may not be controllable.

Marshall Witten is a retired lawyer who has lived and practiced in Vermont for 58 years. His poems have appeared in The Mountain Troubadour, Stanza, Birchsong, and his chapbook Reflections on Change.