Study: Maya sacrifices boys, young men, not virgin girls

2008-01-23 22:27:21 Xinhua English

BEIJING, Jan. 24 (Xinhuanet) -- Archeologists found that the victims of human sacrifice by Mexico's ancient Mayans were likely boys and young men not virgin girls as previously believed, media reported Thursday.

Archeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan of Mexico 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.

"It was thought that the gods preferred small things and especially the rain god had four helpers that were represented as tiny people," said de Anda. "So the children were offered as a way to directly communicate with Chaac."

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.

It is difficult to determine the sex of skeletons before they are fully matured, said de Anda, but he believes cultural evidence from Mayan mythology would suggest the young victims were actually male.