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DNA analysis overturns myths of Maya empire's child sacrifice rituals

Still Waters

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In the height of the Maya empire, the victims of human child sacrifice appear to have been very carefully selected.

According to a new analysis of ancient DNA led by researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, the chosen victims have something in common. The remains of 64 individuals found inside a subterranean chamber known as a chultún all belonged to young boys, many of whom were closely related. Among them, two sets of identical twins.

It's a discovery that contradicts the common notion that sacrifice victims tended to be young girls – an important insight into child sacrifice in Chichén Itzá, deep in the heart of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.


The research has been published in Nature.

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