Tweet People in the contemporary world are forced to confront human violence that is repetitive and organized. People become interested more and more in knowing what the causes and the sources of this type of human aggression toward other people are.
Why did they carry out such brutal ceremonies? John Veranoan anthropology professor at Tulane University, explains the practice held spiritual significance for the Aztecs. Large and small human sacrifices would be made throughout the year to coincide with important calendar dates, he explains, to dedicate temples, to reverse drought and famine, and more.
The rationale for Aztec human sacrifice was, first and foremost, a matter of survival. According to Aztec cosmology, the sun god Huitzilopochtli was waging a constant war against darkness, and if the darkness won, the world would end.
The keep the sun moving across the sky and preserve their very lives, the Aztecs had to feed Huitzilopochtli with human hearts and blood. More than skulls and thousands of fragments found near Templo Mayor.
The ritual killing of war captives and the large-scale displaying of skulls were visceral reminders of the strength of the empire and the extent of its dominion. DNA tests of recovered victims from the Templo Mayor site show that the vast majority of those sacrificed were outsiders, likely enemy soldiers or slaves.
Verano says that across history and cultures, the rise of ritual human sacrifice often coincides with the emergence of complex societies and social stratification. Just look at the gladiator battles of Imperial Rome or the mass burials of servants and captives alongside Egyptian pharaohs and Chinese kings.
Also, as hard as it is to imagine, many captured soldiers, slaves and Aztec citizens went willingly to the sacrificial altar.
The nature of warfare during the height of Aztec power was also unique. By the late 15th century, the Aztecs had won control over large swaths of central and southern Mexico. The only remaining holdout was the neighboring city-state of Tlaxcala to the east.
An Aztec priest removing a man's heart during a sacrificial ritual, offering it to the god Huitzilopochtli. Verano says that these battles provided an important venue for young Aztec warriors to gain social status by bringing home a gaggle of captives, some of whom would ultimately be sacrificed.
Sixteenth-century illustrations depict body parts being cooked in large pots and archeologists have identified telltale butcher marks on the bones of human remains in Aztec sites around Mexico City.
While it was long theorized that Aztecs only engaged in ritual cannibalism during times of famine, another explanation is that consuming the flesh of a person offered to the gods was like communing with the gods, themselves. As off-putting as it sounds, Verano says that ritual cannibalism most likely existed among the Aztecs and would have been considered not only normal, but a great honor.
We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, contact us! Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you.Aztec texts frequently refer to human sacrifice as neteotoquiliztli, "the desire to be regarded as a god".
These members of the society became an ixiptla —that is, a god's representative, image or idol.
Aztec sacrifice. In spite of all the great accomplishments of the empire, it's the Aztec sacrifice that the people are often remembered for. Why were sacrifices offered?
What were they like? Read on Types of sacrifices. Though the human sacrifice is the most talked about, there were actually many types of sacrifices in the empire. “[The Aztecs were] a culture obsessed with death: they believed that human sacrifice was the highest form of karmic healing.
The Aztecs were not the first civilization in Mesoamerica to practise human sacrifice as probably it was the Olmec civilization ( BCE) which first began such rituals atop their sacred pyramids. A picture taken from the Codex Mendoza, created by native scribes for the Spanish in , showing a ritual Aztec sacrifice..
Human Sacrifice. Human sacrifice was practised to some extent by many peoples in Mesoamerica (and for that matter, around the world) for many centuries. The Aztecs were not the first civilization in Mesoamerica to practise human sacrifice as probably it was the Olmec civilization ( BCE) which first began such rituals atop their sacred pyramids.
Other civilizations such as the Maya and Toltecs continued the practice.