Eat and Die: The Last Meal of Sacrificed Chimú Camelids at Huanchaquito-Las Llamas, Peru, as Revealed by Starch Grain Analysis
This article reconstructs the final diet of sacrificed domestic camelids from Huanchaquito-Las Llamas to understand whether feeding was part of the ritual practice. The site is situated on the northern coast of Peru and is dated to the fifteenth century AD (Late Intermediate period; LIP). It was used by the Chimús to kill and bury a large number of camelids, mostly juveniles. We reconstructed the final meal of 11 of the sacrificed individuals by analyzing starch grains derived from the associated gut contents and feces. The starch grains were well preserved and allowed for the determination of five plant taxa. The comparison with previously published and new stable isotope analyses, which provide insights into long-term diet, indicates that the Chimús managed their herds by providing maize as fodder and allowing them to graze on natural pasture; yet they reserved special treatment for sacrificial animals, probably bringing them together a few hours or days before the sacrificial act. We show for the first time the consumption of unusual food products, which included manioc, chili peppers, and beans, as well as cooked foods. Our study provides unique information on Chimú camelid ritual and herding practices.