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“They were attracted to this spot for some reason, and even in the colonial period people came back and did rituals there, even after the Spanish came,” Morehart noted. “The spot has been integrated into something religiously significant across several centuries. It’s amazing.”

Smith said it is possible that, as archaeologists start excavating more ancient farm sites, they might discover more evidence of large-scale rural sacrifices.

“Very few rural areas or rural shrines have ever been located, so it is hard to say that this site represents an unusual find. It certainly is unusual for being the first such feature excavated by archaeologists, but it is possible that such shrines were more common in ancient times; we simply have no idea.”