National Geographic : 2004 Jul
THEY WHO WERE ABOUT TO DIE For prisoners of the Moche, Huaca Cao Viejo's elaborate art (below) was likely among the last sights they saw. Naked, bleeding, and bound with nooses, they were led into the ceremonial plaza. Perhaps they heard the Pacific surf rolling onto the beach in the distance; perhaps all they heard was the pounding of their own hearts. Once inside they witnessed one of history's most gruesome sacrificial rites (following pages). A Moche priest adorned in gold slit their throats one by one. Those in line who didn't turn away or faint saw a priestess catch the blood in a golden goblet for the priest to drink. Scholars know about these ceremonies by studying Moche artwork, like the frieze of naked prisoners (above) discovered on Huaca Cao Viejo's plaza wall. Bones of sacrifice victims incorporated into the frieze and buried under the plaza floor-show evidence of extreme torture before the grisly executions. Still debated: Were the prisoners ART locals or foreigners captured in battle (FOLLOWINGPAGES) locals or foreigners captured in battle?