Sky News:- Archaeologists believe they have found the burial site of the largest child sacrifice ever recorded.

The mass grave, containing the skeletons of 140 children, was discovered in Las Llamas, near the city of Trujillo, northern Peru.

 Experts believe the youngsters, aged between five and 14, were ritually killed in a ceremony about 550 years ago.

The site also contains the remains of around 200 llamas killed at the same time.

The religious leaders who carried out the killings are thought to have been part of the Chimu empire, a powerful society that predated the Incas.

It is thought the youngsters were sacrificed to appease gods who the Chimu people believed had unleashed destructive weather conditions on their society.

The floods and extreme events were actually products of the regular El Nino climate phenomenon.

Excavation of the site started in 2011, but the find has now been made public by National Geographic, which helped finance the dig.

Gabriel Prieto, archaeology professor at Peru’s National University of Trujillo, said: “They were possibly offering the gods the most important thing they had as a society, and the most important thing is children because they represent the future.

“Llamas were also very important because these people had no other beasts of burden, they were a fundamental part of the economy.”

The dig also unearthed footprints that showed how the children were marched to their deaths at the spot from the ancient city of Chan Chan, about a mile away.

A study of their anatomy revealed the killings were performed with a ceremonial knife and efforts had been made to remove their hearts.

Jeffrey Quilter, director of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology at Harvard University, said the site provides “concrete evidence” that large-scale sacrifices of children occurred in ancient Peru.

“Reports of very large sacrifices are known from other parts of the world, but it is difficult to know if the numbers are exaggerated or not,” he said.

Mr Quilter is part of a team which will analyse DNA from the children’s remains to see if they were related and to find out where they came from.

Several other ancient cultures in the Americas also practised human sacrifice, including the Mayans, the Aztecs and the Incas.

Chimu culture arose about 900 AD on the north Peru coast and was later conquered by the Incas in about 1470, fifty years before the arrival of the Spanish.