Grisly Sacrifice of Twin Boys Revealed in Ancient Maya Site Chichén Itzá

Grisly Sacrifice of Twin Boys Revealed in Ancient Maya Site Chichén Itzá

A recent study has revealed new insights into the practice of child sacrifice among the ancient Maya at Chichén Itzá, an important archaeological site in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. Researchers led by the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology analyzed DNA from the remains of 64 children, all male, found in an underground cistern, or chultun, near a sacred water body. The children, who ranged in age from 3 to 6, included several closely related individuals, such as brothers and two sets of identical twins. This discovery challenges previous assumptions that the Maya primarily sacrificed young girls for fertility rites, suggesting instead that boys, especially those with close kinship ties, were selected for these rituals.

The findings, published in the journal Nature, indicate that the sacrifices may have been conducted to honor mythological figures, such as the Hero Twins, or to appease deities for agricultural or rain-related purposes. The practice spanned several centuries, from the early seventh century AD to the mid-twelfth century AD. Genetic analysis also revealed that the present-day Maya carry immune system adaptations likely inherited from ancestors who survived colonial-era epidemics, specifically infections caused by Salmonella enterica. This study provides significant insights into the cultural and genetic continuity of the Maya people and their historical responses to external challenges.

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