Human Sacrifice In Aztec Tradition

The antecedents of Mesoamerican sacrifice

The follow of human sacrifice was widespread within the Mesoamerican and within the South American cultures through the Inca Empire. Like all different recognized pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica, the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. The extant sources describe how the Aztecs sacrificed human victims on every of their eighteen festivities, one festivity for every of their 20-day months. It's unknown if the Aztecs engaged in human sacrifice earlier than they reached the Anahuac valley and began absorbing different cultural influences. The primary human sacrifice reported within the sources was the sacrifice and skinning of the daughter of the king Cxcox of Culhuacn; this story is part of the legend of the inspiration of Tenochtitlan. A number of ethnohistorical sources state that beneath the steerage of Tlacaelel the significance of human sacrifice in Aztec historical past was given additional emphasis.

The position of sacrifice in Mesoamerica

Human sacrifice as proven within the Codex Magliabechiano.

Sacrifice was a standard theme in Mesoamerican cultures. Within the Aztec "Legend of the 5 Suns", all of the gods sacrificed themselves in order that mankind might stay. Some years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, a physique of Franciscans confronted the remaining Aztec priesthood and demanded, beneath menace of demise, that they desist from their murderous apply. The Aztec clergymen defended themselves as follows:

Life is due to the gods; with their sacrifice they gave us life [...]. They produce our sustenance [...] which nourishes life.

What the Aztec clergymen have been referring to was a central Mesoamerican perception: that an incredible, on-going sacrifice sustains the Universe. Every part is tonacayotl: the "religious flesh-hood" or "bodily [sacrificial] presence" of the gods on earth. Every little thing arth, crops, moon, stars and other people springs from the severed or buried our bodies, fingers, blood or the heads of the sacrificed gods. Humanity itself is macehualli, "these deserved and introduced again to life by way of penance". A robust sense of indebtedness was related with this worldview. Certainly, nextlahualli (debt-payment) was a generally used metaphor for human sacrifice, and, as Bernardino de Sahagn reported, it was stated that the sufferer was somebody who "gave his service".

Human sacrifice was on this sense the very best degree of a whole panoply of choices by way of which the Aztecs sought to repay their debt to the gods. Each Sahagn and Toribio de Benavente (additionally referred to as "Motolina") noticed that the Aztecs gladly parted with every thing: burying, smashing, sinking, slaying huge portions of quail, rabbits, canine, feathers, flowers, bugs, beans, grains, paper, rubber and treasures as sacrifices. Even the "stage" for human sacrifice, the huge temple-pyramids, was an providing mound: full of treasures, grains, soil and human and animal sacrifices that have been buried as presents to the deities. Adorned with the land's best artwork, treasure and victims, these temples had turn into buried choices beneath new buildings each half a century.

The sacrifice of animals was widespread, a follow for which the Aztecs bred canine, eagles, jaguars and deer. Objects additionally have been sacrificed by being damaged and provided to the gods. The cult of Quetzalcatl required the sacrifice of butterflies and hummingbirds.

Self-sacrifice was additionally fairly widespread; individuals would supply maguey thorns, tainted with their very own blood and, just like the Maya kings, would supply blood from their tongue, ear lobes, or genitals. Blood held a central place in Mesoamerican cultures. The Florentine Codex stories that in one of many creation myths Quetzalcatl provided blood extracted from a wound in his personal genital to provide life to humanity. There are a number of different myths during which Nahua gods supply their blood to assist humanity.

Widespread individuals would supply maguey thorns with their blood. Lloyd deMause has argued that, like present-day self harmers, the Aztecs additionally practiced bloodletting from cuts made with obsidian knives or bone needles on fleshy elements of the physique, like earlobes, lips, tongue, chest and calves. This was thought-about personal and a private act of penitence towards the gods. The thorns have been put in a ball of straw referred to as zacatapayoli and later positioned in an adoratorium.

Very similar to the position of sacrifice elsewhere on the planet, it thus appears that these rites functioned as a kind of atonement for Aztec believers. Their sacrificial hymns describe the sufferer as 'despatched (to dying) to plead for us,' or 'consecrated to annul all sin. '(Duran, Ebook of the Gods and Rites, 232). In a single such poem, a warrior-victim broadcasts that 'I embrace mankind...I give myself to the group.'(MSS Romance de Los ... Folio 27r). Aztec society seen even the slightest tlatlacolli ('sin' or 'insult') as a particularly malevolent supernatural drive. For example, if an adulterer have been to enter a home, it was believed that each one turkey chicks would perish from tlazomiquiztli ('filth-death')(Sahagun Bk. 5: 29: 191-192). To keep away from such calamities befalling their group, those that had erred punished themselves by excessive measures reminiscent of slitting their tongues for vices of speech or their ears for vices of listening, and 'for a slight [sin they] hanged themselves, or threw themselves down precipices, or put an finish to themselves by abstinence' (Motolinia, Historical past of the Indies, 106-107). In Basic Nahuatl (the Aztec language) the verbal type ni-c-yecoa, 'I sin', is intently associated to ni-c-ye.coa, 'I end it.' It was believed that error of any type might fairly actually 'end' or 'spoil' every little thing (Francisco Clavigero, Historia antiqua de Mxico, 7). This appears to have given Aztec society a heavy dependence on extraordinarily violent 'penance,'of which human sacrifice was thought-about one type (as already talked about, human sacrifice was typically referred to as 'penance').

A substantial amount of cosmological thought appears to have underlain every of the Aztec sacrificial rites. By far the most typical type of human sacrifice was heart-extraction, and this appears to have associated to the Aztec perception that the guts(tona) was each the seat of the person and a fraction of the Solar's warmth (istli). To today, the Nahua contemplate the Solar to be a heart-soul (tona-tiuh) 'spherical, scorching, pulsating'(Alan Sandtrom, Corn is Our Life, 1991, 239-240). It appears that evidently within the Aztec view, humanity's 'divine solar fragments' have been thought-about 'entrapped' by the physique and its wishes:

The place is your coronary heart? You give your coronary heart to every factor in flip. Carrying, you don't carry it... You destroy your coronary heart on earth (Nahua poem in Irene Nicholson, Firefly within the Night time, 156 & 203).

Coronary heart-extraction was seen as a way of liberate istli and reunite it with the Solar, as aptly depicted in Codex Magliabechiano, Folio 70 (illustrated on this part), whereby a sufferer's reworked coronary heart flies Sunward on a path of blood.

Lastly, it must be famous that based on the Aztec (and Mesoamerican) world-view, the circumstances during which individuals died decided the kind of afterlife they loved. The Aztecs had meticulously organised dying into a number of varieties, which every led to particular 'heavenly' and 'underworld' ranges. Within the ranges Sahagun data, passing away quietly at residence was the bottom, because it required the unlucky soul to bear quite a few torturous trials and journeys, solely to culminate in a sombre underworld. Against this, what the Aztecs termed 'an excellent dying' was sacrifice, struggle (which often meant sacrifice) or - within the case of girls - dying while giving start. This type of finish procured for the deceased the second-highest heaven (demise in infancy being the very best). Individuals who had died sacrificially or in conflict have been referred to as 'the God-dead' (Teo-micqui ) and have been stated to 'go pure... stay arduous by, nigh unto the Solar... [who] all the time endlessly ... rejoice ... [since] the Home of the Solar is ... a spot of pleasure (Sahagun Bk 6: 21).

The 52-year cycle

The cycle of fifty-two years was central to Mesoamerican cultures. The Nahua's spiritual beliefs have been based mostly on an incredible worry that the universe would collapse after every cycle if the gods weren't robust sufficient. Each fifty-two years a particular New Hearth ceremony was carried out. All fires have been extinguished and at midnight a human sacrifice was made. The Aztecs waited for the daybreak. If the Solar appeared it meant that the sacrifices for this cycle had been sufficient. A fireplace was ignited on the physique of a sufferer, and this new hearth was taken to each home, metropolis and city. Rejoicing was basic: a brand new cycle of fifty-two years was starting, and the top of the world had been postponed, a minimum of for an additional 52-year century. (An analogous ceremony continues to be practiced by small indigenous teams, however with out human sacrifice.) The ceremony was older than the Aztecs. Whereas initially it was believed it was a matter of luck to outlive, the Aztecs thought that fixed sacrifice by means of the fifty-two yr cycle might postpone the top.

In accordance with Miguel Len-Portilla, Tlacaelel reformed the unique Nahua faith and the Aztecs seen themselves as the primary representatives for feeding the gods. This gave them a brand new sense of id, from "individuals with out face" as they have been referred to as by hostile neighbours, to the individuals in command of the existence of the universe. Thus they started to name themselves "The individuals of the solar". Different researchers dispute Len-Portilla's perspective, pointing to the relative lack of main sources.[citation needed]

Sacrifices to particular gods


Huitzilopochtli was the tribal deity of the Mexica and, as such, he represented the character of the Mexica individuals and was typically recognized with the solar on the zenith, and with warfare.

When the Aztecs sacrificed individuals to Huitzilopochtli ( the god with warfare like elements ) the sufferer can be positioned on a sacrificial stone. Then the priest would minimize by means of the stomach with an obsidian or flint blade. The guts can be torn out nonetheless beating and held in the direction of the sky in honor to the Solar-God; the physique can be carried away and both cremated or given to the warrior liable for the seize of the sufferer. He would both minimize the physique in items and ship them to necessary individuals as an providing, or use the items for ritual cannibalism. The warrior would thus ascend one step within the hierarchy of the Aztec social courses, a system that rewarded profitable warriors.

Sufferer of sacrificial gladiatorial fight, from Codex Magliabechiano. Observe that he's tied to a big stone and his macuahuitl (sword/membership) is roofed with what seems to be feathers as an alternative of obsidian.


Tezcatlipoca was usually thought-about probably the most powerful god, the god of night time, sorcery and future (the identify tezcatlipoca means "smoking mirror", or "obsidian"). The Aztecs believed that Tezcatlipoca created warfare to offer food and drinks to the gods. Tezcatlipoca was recognized by a number of epithets together with "the Enemy" and "the Enemy of Each Sides", which stress his affinity for discord. Tezcatlipoca had the facility to forgive sins and to alleviate illness, or to launch a person from the destiny assigned to him by his date of delivery; nevertheless, nothing in Tezcatlipoca's nature compelled him to take action. He was capricious and sometimes caused reversals of fortune. To the Aztecs, he was an all-knowing, all-seeing almost omnipotent god. Considered one of his names might be translated as "We Who Are His Slaves".

Some captives have been sacrificed to Tezcatlipoca in ritual gladiatorial fight. The sufferer was tethered in place and given a mock weapon. He died preventing towards as much as 4 absolutely armed jaguar knights and eagle warriors.

In the course of the 20-day month of Toxcatl, a younger impersonator of Tezcatlipoca can be sacrificed. All through a yr, this youth can be dressed as Tezcatlipoca and handled as a dwelling incarnation of the God. The youth would symbolize Tezcatlipoca on earth; he would get 4 lovely ladies as his companions till he met his future, within the meantime he walked by way of the streets of Tenochtitlan enjoying a flute. On the day of the sacrifice a feast can be held in Tezcatlipoca's honor. The younger man would climb the pyramid, break his flute and give up his physique to the clergymen. Sahagn in contrast it to the Christian Easter.


To appease Huehueteotl, the hearth god and a senior deity, the Aztecs had a ceremony the place they ready a big feast on the finish of which they might burn captives and earlier than they died they might be taken from the hearth and their hearts can be minimize out. Motolina and Sahagn reported that the Aztecs believed that if they didn't placate Huehueteotl a plague of fireside would strike their metropolis. The sacrifice was thought-about an providing to the deity.


Most important article: Baby sacrifice in pre-Columbian cultures

Tlloc was the god of rain. The Aztecs believed that if sacrifices weren't provided for Tlloc, rain would not come and their crops would not flourish. Leprosy and rheumatism, illnesses brought on by Tlloc, would infest the village. Tlloc required the tears of the younger as a part of the sacrifice. The clergymen made the youngsters cry throughout their approach to immolation: a superb omen that Tlloc would moist the earth within the raining season. Within the Florentine Codex, also referred to as Common Historical past of the Issues of New Spain, Sahagn wrote:

They provided them as sacrifices to [Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue] in order that they might give them water.

The Flower Wars

Major article: Flower struggle

It has typically been claimed by students that the Aztecs resorted to a type of ritual warfare, the Flower Warfare, to acquire dwelling human our bodies for the sacrifices in time of peace. This declare nevertheless has been severely criticised by students corresponding to Ross Hassig and Nigel Davies who declare that the primary function of the Flower Wars was political and never spiritual and that the variety of sacrificial victims obtained by way of flower wars was insignificant in comparison with the variety of victims obtained by means of regular political warfare.

In accordance with Diego Durn's Historical past of the Indies of New Spain, and some different sources which might be additionally based mostly on the Crnica X, the Flower Wars have been initially a treaty between the cities of Aztec Triple Alliance and Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo motivated by a famine in Mesoamerica in 1450. Aztec prisoners have been additionally sacrificed in Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo. The seize of prisoners for sacrifices was referred to as nextlaualli ("debt cost to the gods"). These sources nevertheless are contradicted by different sources, such because the Codex Chimalpahin, which mentions "Flower Wars" a lot sooner than the famine of 1450 and towards different opponents than those talked about within the treaty.

As a result of the target of Aztec warfare was to seize victims alive for human sacrifice, battle techniques have been designed primarily to injure the enemy somewhat than kill him. After cities have been conquered their inhabitants have been not candidates for human sacrifice, solely liable to common tribute.

Slaves additionally could possibly be used for human sacrifice, however provided that the slave was thought-about lazy and had been resold 3 times.

A ceremonial providing of Aztec sacrificial knife blades on the Nationwide Museum of Anthropology in Mexico Metropolis.

The sacrifice ritual

A lot of the sacrificial rituals took greater than two individuals to carry out. Within the ordinary process of the ritual, the sacrifice can be taken to the highest of the temple. The sacrifice would then be laid on a stone slab by 4 clergymen, and his/her stomach can be sliced open by a fifth priest with a ceremonial knife manufactured from flint. The minimize was made within the stomach and went by way of the diaphragm. The priest would seize the guts and tear it out, nonetheless beating. It might be positioned in a bowl held by a statue of the honored god, and the physique thrown down the temple's stairs.

Earlier than and in the course of the killing, clergymen and viewers (who gathered within the plaza under) stabbed, pierced and bled themselves as autosacrifice (Sahagun, Bk. 2: Three: Eight, 20: 49, 21: 47). Hymns, whistles, spectacular costumed dances and percussive music marked totally different phases of the ceremony.

The physique elements would then be disposed of: the viscera fed the animals within the zoo; the bleeding head was positioned on show within the tzompantli, which means 'bushy skulls'. Not all of the skulls within the tzompantlis have been victims of sacrifice. Within the Anales de Tlatelolco it's described that through the siege of Tlatelolco by the Spaniards, the Tlatelolcas constructed three tzompantli: two for their very own lifeless and one for the fallen conquerors, together with two severed heads of horses.

Other forms of human sacrifice, which paid tribute to varied deities, approached the victims in another way. The sufferer might be shot with arrows (by which the draining blood represented the cool rains of spring); die in unequal preventing (gladiatorial sacrifice) or be sacrificed because of the Mesoamerican ballgame; burned (to honor the hearth god); flayed after being sacrificed (to honor Xipe Totec, "Our Lord The Flayed One"), or drowned.

A tzompantli, or cranium rack, as proven within the post-Conquest Ramirez Codex.

Estimates of the scope of the sacrifices

For the re-consecration of Nice Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they sacrificed about 80,400 prisoners over the course of 4 days, although there have been in all probability far fewer sacrifices. In line with Ross Hassig, writer of Aztec Warfare, "between 10,000 and 80,400 individuals" have been sacrificed within the ceremony. The upper estimate would common 14 sacrifices per minute through the four-day consecration. As a comparability, the Auschwitz focus camp, working 24 hours a day with trendy know-how, approached however didn't equal this tempo: it executed about 19,200 a day at its peak. 4 tables have been organized on the prime in order that the victims could possibly be jettisoned down the edges of the temple. Nonetheless, in line with Codex Telleriano-Remensis, previous Aztecs who talked with the missionaries informed a few a lot decrease determine for the reconsecration of the temple, roughly four,000 victims in complete.

Michael Harner, in his 1977 article The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice, estimates the variety of individuals sacrificed in central Mexico within the 15th century as excessive as 250,000 per yr. Fernando de Alva Corts Ixtlilxochitl, a Mexica descendant and the writer of Codex Ixtlilxochitl, claimed that one in 5 youngsters of the Mexica topics was killed yearly. Victor Davis Hanson argues that an estimate by Don Carlos Zumrraga of 20,000 every year is "extra believable." Different students consider that, because the Aztecs all the time tried to intimidate their enemies, it's extra doubtless that they might have inflated the quantity as a propaganda device. The identical could be stated for Bernal Daz's inflated calculations when, in a state of visible shock, he grossly miscalculated the variety of skulls at one of many seven Tenochtitlan tzompantlis. In accordance the Florentine Codex, fifty years earlier than the conquest the Aztecs burnt the skulls of the previous tzompantli. Mexican archeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma has unearthed and studied some tzompantlis.

Sacrifices have been made on particular days. Sahagn, Juan Bautista de Pomar and Motolina report that the Aztecs had eighteen festivities annually, one for every Aztec month. They clearly state that in these festivities sacrifices have been made. Every god required a special sort of sufferer: younger ladies have been drowned for Xilonen; youngsters have been sacrificed to Tlloc; Nahuatl-speaking prisoners to Huitzilopochtli, and a single nahua would volunteer for Tezcatlipoca. The Ramrez Codex states that for the annual festivity of Huitzilopochtli greater than sixty prisoners have been sacrificed in the primary temple, and prisoners have been sacrificed in different giant Aztec cities as properly.

Not all sacrifices have been made on the Tenochtitlan temples; a number of have been made at "Cerro del Pen", an islet of the Texcoco lake. Based on an Aztec supply, within the month of Tlacaxipehualiztli (from February 22 to March 13), thirty-four captives have been sacrificed within the gladiatorial sacrifice to Xipe Totec. Extra victims can be sacrificed to Huitzilopochtli within the month Panquetzaliztli (from 9 November to 28 November) in accordance with the Ramrez Codex. This may imply a determine as little as 300 to 600 victims a yr. There's little settlement on the precise determine because of the shortage of archeological proof.

Each Aztec warrior must present a minimum of one prisoner for sacrifice. All of the male inhabitants was educated to be warriors, however solely the few who succeeded in offering captives might turned full-time members of the warrior elite. Those that couldn't would develop into macehualli, staff. Accounts additionally state that a number of younger warriors might unite to seize a single prisoner, which means that capturing prisoners for sacrifice was difficult.

There's nonetheless a lot debate as to what social teams constituted the standard victims of those sacrifices. It's typically assumed that each one victims have been 'disposable' commoners or foreigners. Nevertheless, slaves - a serious supply of victims - weren't a everlasting class however somewhat individuals from any degree of Aztec society who had fallen into debt or dedicated some crime (see Duran, Ebook of the Gods and Rites, 131, 260). Likewise, a lot of the earliest accounts speak of prisoners of conflict of numerous social standing, and concur that nearly all youngster sacrifices have been locals of noble lineage, provided by their very own mother and father (examine Cortes, Letters 105 with Motolinia, Historical past of the Lindies 118-119 and Duran, Guide of the Gods, 223, 242).

Likewise, it's uncertain if many victims got here from far afield. In 1454, the Aztec authorities forbade the slaying of captives from distant lands on the capital's temples (Duran, The Aztecs: Historical past of the Indes, 141). Duran' s informants advised him that sacrifices have been consequently 'almost all the time ... buddies of the [Royal] Home'- which means warriors from allied states (Duran, The Aztecs: Historical past of the Indies, 141, 198). This in all probability meant that the typical Aztec warrior stood as a lot probability of procuring a sufferer as he did of himself turning into one - because the Aztec Emperor reportedly informed all captives about to be sacrificed: 'right now for you, tomorrow for me'(Tezozomoc Vol.2).

Dialogue of main sources

Codex Tudela.

Early Spanish accounts point out the sacrificial apply of the Aztecs in addition to different Mesoamerican cultures within the 16th century. There are quite a few depictions of sacrifices within the Mexica statuary, in addition to in codices such because the Ros, Tudela, Telleriano-Remensis, Durn, and Sahagn's Florentine. Then again, the pre-Columbian, indigenous codices that depict the rites weren't written texts however pictorial and extremely symbolic ideographshe Aztecs didn't have a real writing system such that of the Mayas. Bishop Zumarraga (1528-48) burned all obtainable texts in his spiritual zeal.

For Mesoamerica as an entire, the collected archaeological, iconographical and within the case of the Maya written proof, signifies that human sacrifice was widespread throughout cultures and durations, courting again to 600 BCE and probably a lot earlier. Osteological analyses have additionally been interpreted as corroborating the texts. Pictorial illustrations of sacrifices on Maya ceramics and stelae have additionally been revealed.

Accounts from the Grijalva expeditions

Along with the accounts offered by Sahagn and Durn, there are different necessary texts to be thought-about.

Juan de Grijalva, Hernn Corts, Juan Daz, Bernal Daz, Andrs de Tapia, Francisco de Aguilar, Ruy Gonzlez and the Nameless Conqueror wrote concerning the Conquest of Mexico. Martyr d'Anghiera, Lopez de Gomara, Oviedo y Valdes and Illescas, whereas not in Mesoamerica, wrote their accounts based mostly on interviews with the individuals. Bartolom de Las Casas and Sahagn arrived later to New Spain however had entry to direct testimony, particularly of the indigenous individuals. All of those narratives point out and describe the apply of human sacrifice.

Juan Daz

Juan Daz, a participant of the 1518 Grijalva expedition, wrote Itinerario de Grijalva earlier than 1520, by which he describes the aftermath of a sacrifice on an island close to Veracruz.

Bernal Daz

Major article: The Conquest of New Spain

Bernal Daz corroborates Juan Daz's historical past:

On these altars have been idols with evil wanting our bodies, and that each night time 5 Indians had been sacrificed earlier than them; their chests had been minimize open, and their arms and thighs had been minimize off. The partitions have been coated with blood. We stood drastically amazed and gave the island the identify isleta de Sacrificios [Island of the Sacrifices].

In The Conquest of New Spain Daz recounted that, after touchdown on the coast, they got here throughout a temple devoted to Tezcatlipoca. "That day that they had sacrificed two boys, slicing open their chests and providing their blood and hearts to that accursed idol". Daz narrates a number of extra sacrificial descriptions on the later Corts expedition. Arriving at Cholula, they discover "cages of stout picket bars [...] filled with males and boys who have been being fattened for the sacrifice at which their flesh can be eaten". When the conquistadors reached Tenochtitlan, Daz described the sacrifices on the Nice Pyramid:

They strike open the wretched Indian's chest with flint knives and rapidly tear out the palpitating coronary heart which, with the blood, they current to the idols [...]. They minimize off the arms, thighs and head, consuming the arms and thighs at ceremonial banquets. The top they hold up on a beam, and the physique is [] given to the beasts of prey.

In accordance with Bernal Daz, the chiefs of the encompassing cities, for instance Cempoala, would complain on quite a few events to Corts concerning the perennial want to provide the Aztecs with victims for human sacrifice. It's clear from his description of their worry and resentment towards the Mexicas that, of their opinion, it was no honor to give up their kinsmen to be sacrificed by them.

Hernn Corts

Corts describes comparable occasions in his Letters:

They've a most horrid and abominable customized which really should be punished and which till now we've got seen in no different half, and that is that, each time they want to ask one thing of the idols, so that their plea might discover extra acceptance, they take many ladies and boys and even adults, and within the presence of those idols they open their chests whereas they're nonetheless alive and take out their hearts and entrails and burn them earlier than the idols, providing the smoke as sacrifice. A few of us have seen this, they usually say it's the most horrible and frightful factor they've ever witnessed.

The Nameless Conqueror

The Nameless Conqueror's Narrative of Some Issues of New Spain and of the Nice Metropolis of Temestitan particulars Aztec sacrifices. In Chapter XIV he depicts the temple during which males, ladies, girls and boys have been sacrificed. On Chapter XXIV the Nameless Conqueror repeatedly claims that the Aztecs have been cannibals, sodomites, alcoholics and polygamists. The unique Spanish textual content is misplaced. The outline of the temple was revealed within the 1556 Ramusio Italian version.

A jaguar-shaped cuauhxicalli within the Nationwide Museum of Anthropology. This altar-like stone vessel was used to carry the hearts of sacrificial victims. See additionally chacmool.

Evaluation of the apply of human sacrifice

Human sacrifice was nothing new when the Aztecs arrived to the Valley of Mexico, nor was it one thing distinctive to pre-Columbian Mexico. Different Mesoamerican cultures, such because the Tarascans and Toltecs, carried out human sacrifices as properly. Though the extent of human sacrifice is unknown amongst a number of Mesoamerican civilizations, resembling Teotihuacn, what distinguished Maya and Aztec human sacrifice was the significance with which it was embedded in on a regular basis life.

Diego Durn states that Aztecs made "detached or sarcastic remarks" when the Spaniards severely criticized the ceremony. In his E-book of the Gods and Rites a number of the Nahuas even ridiculed the Christian sensibilities. As an alternative, they requested the Spaniards to applaud:

The sacrifice of human beings [], the honored oblation of nice lords and noblemen. They keep in mind this stuff and inform of them as if that they had been nice deeds.

Though Aztec accounts point out some victims who wept, 'faltered... weakened' or 'misplaced management of their bowels' when going to be sacrificed (Sahagun Bk 2: 81), this response doesn't appear to have been the norm, as when this occurred, it was seen as a nasty omen (Duran, E-book of the Gods and Rites, 132), and a tetlazolmictiliztli ('insult to the gods')(Duran, Ebook of the Gods and Rites, 132). Such victims have been hurriedly taken apart and slain amidst the congregation's sarcastic jeers of '(the sufferer has) fairly acquitted himself as a person'(Sahagun Bk 2:21). Opposite to fashionable perceptions of Aztec victims being fearful of their destiny, even the Conquistadors Cortes and Alvarado discovered that these they freed 'indignantly rejected [the] supply of launch and demanded to be sacrificed.'(Bernal Diaz, The Conquest of New Spain,159).

What we will glean from all that is that the sacrificial position entailed quite a lot of social expectation and a sure diploma of acquiescence. Sahagun's informants informed him that key roles have been reserved for individuals who have been thought-about ' with feeling.. with out [moral] defects ... of excellent understanding ... good mannered'(Sahagun Bk 2: 24: 68-69). For a lot of rites, the sufferer had such a amount of prescribed duties that it's troublesome to think about how the accompanying pageant would have progressed with out a point of compliance on the a part of the sufferer. As an example, victims have been anticipated to bless youngsters, greet and cheer passers-by, hear individuals's petitions to the gods, go to individuals of their houses, give discourses and lead sacred songs, processions and dances (Sahagun Bk 5: Eight; Bk 2: 5:9; Bk 2:24:68-69). The works of Clendinnen and Brundage suggest that just a few choose victims had this type of position, however the Florentine Codex and Duran each make no such distinctions, stating that 'those that needed to die carried out many ceremonies... [and] these [pre-sacrificial] rites have been carried out within the case of all of the prisoners, every in flip.'(see Sahagun Bk 2:5:9 and Duran, Guide of the Gods...p. 112).

It also needs to be remembered that these sacrifices have been ritualistic and symbolic acts accompanying large feasts and festivals. Victims often died within the "middle stage" amidst the splendor of dancing troupes, percussion orchestras, elaborate costumes and decorations, carpets of flowers, crowds of hundreds of commoners, and all of the assembled elite.

This may clarify why Aztec texts often discuss with human sacrifice as neteotoquiliztli, 'the will to be considered a god'(Duran, Guide of the Gods and Rites, 177 Word four). For every pageant, at the least a number of victims took on the paraphernalia, habits and attributes of the god or goddess whom they have been dying as. Notably the younger man who was indoctrinated for a yr to submit himself to Tezcatlipoca's temple was the Aztec equal of a star or rock star, being tremendously revered and adored to the purpose of individuals "kissing the bottom" when he handed by, as Sahagn put it.

This apply was referred to as turning into an ixiptla - specifically, the god's consultant, picture or idol. Ixiptla was the identical time period used for picket, stone and dough photographs of gods. Apparently, Aztec texts not often differentiate between human ixiptla and picket or stone ixiptla. In reality, so elaborately costumed and painted have been human ixiptla that even the congregation was not sure which have been human and which have been stone or wooden (Duran, Guide of the Gods and Rites, 102). When a sufferer appeared in full regalia earlier than the congregation, it was stated that the divinity had been given 'human type'- that the god now had an ixitli (face)(Duran, E-book of the Gods..., 72-73). Duran says such victims have been'worshipped... because the deity'(Duran, Ebook of the Gods and Rites, 42,109,232) or 'as if that they had been gods'(Sahagun, Florentine Codex Bk 2: 226, 238-239) (-the unique Nahuatl time period being nienoteoti'tzinea, actually, 'I think about him a god')(Clavigero, 98). Even while nonetheless alive, these victims have been honoured, hallowed and addressed (like gods) as 'Lord' and 'Woman'(Duran, E-book of the Gods and Rites.., 189) Posthumously, their stays have been handled as precise relics of the gods which explains why victims' skulls, bones and pores and skin have been typically painted, bleached, saved and displayed, or else used as ritual masks and oracles. For instance, Diego Duran's informants advised him that whoever wore the pores and skin of the sufferer portraying god Xipe thought-about himself 'divine'(Duran, E-book of the Gods and Rites..176).

Proposed explanations of Aztec human sacrifice

Aztec or Mixtec sacrificial knife, in all probability for ceremonial use solely, within the British Museum.

The dietary rationalization

Primary article: Cannibalism in pre-Columbian America

Students Michael Harner and Marvin Harris have argued that the motivation behind human sacrifice among the many Aztecs was truly the cannibalization of the sacrificial victims. Whereas there's common settlement that the Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, there's a lack of scholarly consensus as as to if cannibalism was widespread. At one excessive anthropologist Marvin Harris, writer of Cannibals and Kings, has propagated the declare, initially proposed by Harner, that the flesh of the victims was part of an aristocratic weight-reduction plan as a reward, because the Aztec food regimen was missing in proteins. This declare has been refuted by Bernard Ortz Montellano who, in his research of Aztec well being, eating regimen, and drugs, demonstrates that whereas the Aztec food plan was low in animal proteins, it was wealthy in vegetable proteins.

The political rationalization

The high-profile nature of the sacrificial ceremonies signifies that human sacrifice performed an essential political perform. The Mexica used a classy package deal of psychological weaponry to take care of their empire, aimed toward instilling a way of worry into their neighbours. The Aztecs managed a big empire of tribute paying vassal tribes. The inhabitants of native Aztecs was very small in comparison with the inhabitants of the world they managed. The Aztecs have been weak - they might have been simply outnumbered had their vassal tribes shaped alliances and rebelled. To sow dissention among the many vassals the Aztecs demanded human victims as a part of the annual tribute. The vassals would raid one another to seize prisoners. This inspired animosity between the vassals and strengthened Aztec political central rule. This was a way of political management which was revolutionary and maybe distinctive in human historical past.

European empires, in distinction, have been sometimes secured by means of the creation of garrisons and set up of puppet governments in conquered cities or settlements. The Mexica used human sacrifice as a weapon of terror even towards the Spanish conquistadors, whose fallen victims have been sacrificed and typically skinned and their bloody heads positioned on the tzompantli. From throughout the empire even the chiefs of enemy cities have been invited, or within the case of tributary cities obliged, to attend sacrificial ceremonies in Tenochtitlan. Their refusal can be thought-about an act of defiance towards the Mexica.

The psychological rationalization

For Lloyd deMause it's vital that the victims have been invested of a profound cosmological which means. In response to him and a minority of teachers who subscribe to an alternate faculty of thought, "psychohistory", human sacrifices, together with sacrifices in Mesoamerica, have been an unconscious type of response to the traumatogenic modes of childrearing. DeMause particularly considers the Aztecs' apply of sacrifice as displacement.

Exterior hyperlinks

Article "El sacrificio humano en Mesoamrica" by Michel Graulich - in Arqueologa mexicana, vol. XI, nmero 63, pp. 16-21. (Spanish)


^ Matos-Moctezuma, Eduardo (1986). Vida y muerte en el Templo Mayor. Fondo de Cultura Econmica. 

^ "Proof Might Again Human Sacrifice Claims" By Mark Stevenson

^ "Grisly Sacrifices Present in Pyramid of the Moon" By LiveScience Employees.

^ a b Harner, Michael (1977). "The Ecological Foundation for Aztec Sacrifice". American Ethnologist four (1): 117135. doi:10.1525/ae.1977.four.1.02a00070. 

^ Leonardo Lpez-Lujn's handle in "Nuevas perspectivas sobre el sacrificio humano entre los mexicas", a world seminary of the Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia celebrated in September 2007 within the Museum of the Templo Mayor.

^ Graulich, Michael (2003). "El sacrificio humano en Mesoamrica". Arqueologa mexicana XI (63): 1621. 

^ Reinhard, Johan (November 1999). "A 6,700 metros nios incas sacrificados quedaron congelados en el tiempo". Nationwide Geographic, Spanish model: 3655. 

^ Bernardino de Sahagn, Historia Common de las Cosas de la Nueva Espaa, ed. a cargo de ngel Ma. Garibay (Mxico: Editorial Porra, 2006), chapters XX to XXXVIII

^ Thema, Equipo (2002). Los aztecas. Ediciones Rueda. pp. 3940. 

^ Nicholson, Henry B. (1971). (in) Handbook of Center American Indians. College of Texas Press. p. 402. 

^ Len-Portilla (1963, p.111).

^ Museo del Templo Mayor, Corridor 2

^ Cecelia Klein. "The Ideology of Autosacrifice on the Templo Mayor" in E. H. Boone, ed. The Aztec Templo Mayor pp. 293-370. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks. 1987 ISBN Zero-88402-149-1

^ Soustelle, Jacques (2003). La vida cotidiana de los aztecas. Fondo de Cultura Econmica. p. 102ff. 

^ Durn, Fr. Diego (1967). Historia de las Indias de Nueva Espaa. Porra. 

^ deMause, Lloyd (2002). The Emotional Lifetime of Nations. Karnac. p. 413. 

^ Matos-Moctezuma, Eduardo (2006). Tenochtitlan. Fondo de Cultura Econmica. pp. 17273. 

^ Bernardino de Sahagn, Historia Common de las Cosas de la Nueva Espaa (op. cit.), p. 76

^ Sahagn, Ibid.

^ Duverger, Christian (2005). La flor letal: economa del sacrificio azteca. Fondo de cultura econmica. pp. 8393. 

^ Sahagn, Op. cit., p. 79

^ Bernardino de Sahagn, Historia Basic de las Cosas de la Nueva Espaa (op. cit.), p. 83

^ Sahagn, Fray Bernardino (1950-1959). Florentine Codex: Basic Historical past of the Issues of New Spain. 1561-82., trans. Arthur J.O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. Santa Fe: Faculty of American Analysis and the College of Utah. III, 5. 

^ Hassig, Ross (1988). Aztec Warfare: Imperial Enlargement and Political Management. Norman: College of Oklahoma Press. ISBN Zero-806-12121-1. 

^ Hassig, Ross (2003). "El sacrificio y las guerras floridas". Arqueologa mexicana XI: 4651. 

^ Davies, Nigel (1968). Los Seorios independientes del Imperio Azteca. Mexico D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Antropologa e Historia (INAH). 

^ Duverger, Christian (2005). La flor letal. Fondo de cultura econmica. p. 81. 

^ Bernardino de Sahagn, Historia Basic de las Cosas de la Nueva Espaa (op. cit.), p. 88

^ Duverger, Christian (2005). La flor letal. Fondo de cultura econmica. pp. 139140. 

^ Duverger, Ibid., 171

^ Duverger (op. cit.), pages 157-167

^ Hassig, Ross (2003). "El sacrificio y las guerras floridas". Arqueologa mexicana XI: 47. 

^ Victor Davis Hanson (2000), Carnage and Tradition, Doubleday, New York, pp. 194-195. Hanson, who accepts the 80,000+ estimate, additionally notes that it exceeded "the every day homicide document at both Auschwitz or Dachau."

^ Hanson, p. 195.

^ Duverger (op. cit), 174-77

^ Matos-Moctezuma, Eduardo (2005). Muerte a filo de obsidiana. Fondo de Cultura Econmica. pp. 111124. 

^ George Holtker, "Research in Comparative Faith", The Religions of Mexico and Peru, Vol 1, CTS

^ - "Ritual Sacrifice and the Feathered Serpent Pyramid at Teotihuacn, Mxico" By George L. Cowgill

^ - "Evaluation of Kaqchikel Skeletons: Iximch, Guatemala" By Stephen L. Whittington & Robert H. Tykot

^ Stuart, David (2003). "La ideologa del sacrificio entre los mayas". Arqueologa mexicana XI (63): 2429. 

^ Daz, Bernal (2005) . Historia verdadera de la conquista de Nueva Espaa (Introduccin y notas de Joaqun Ramrez Cabaas). Editorial Porra. p. 24. 

^ Daz (op. cit.), p. 150

^ Dinesh D'Souza's article

^ The Conquest of New Spain, chap. XLVI

^ Corts, Hernn (2005) . Cartas de relacin. Mxico: Editorial Porra. p. 26. "Y tienen otra cosa horrible y abominable y digna de ser punida que hasta hoy no habamos visto en ninguna parte, y es que todas las veces que alguna cosa quieren pedir a sus dolos para que ms acepten su peticin, toman muchas nias y nios y aun hombre y mujeres de mayor edad, y en presencia de aquellos dolos los abren vivos por los pechos y les sacan el corazn y las entraas, y queman las dichas entraas y corazones delante de los dolos, y ofrecindolos en sacrificio aquel humo. Esto habemos visto algunos de nosotros, y los que lo han visto dicen que es la ms cruda y espantosa cosa de ver que jams han visto".

^ - Narrative of Some Issues of New Spain and of the Nice Metropolis of Temestitan, Mxico, Chapter XV, written by a Companion of Hernn Corts, The Nameless Conqueror.

^ Ibid., Chapter XIV

^ Ibid., Chapter XXIV

^ DNA evaluation exhibits that the Teotihuacan civilization introduced human victims from distant cities.

^ Diego Duran, E-book of the Gods and Rites, p. 227

^ Sahagn, Historia common, op. cit, p. 104

^ Web site of the British Museum.

^ Ortiz de Montellano, Bernard R. (1990). Aztec Drugs, Well being, and Vitamin. Rutgers College Press. 

^ Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard R. (1983). "Counting Skulls: Touch upon the Aztec Cannibalism Concept of Harner-Harris". American Anthropologist, New Collection 85, (2): 403406. 

^ Godwin, Robert (2004). One Cosmos beneath God. Omega Books. pp. 142, 154. 

^ deMause, Lloyd (2002). The Emotional Lifetime of Nations. Karnac. e.g., pp. 31, 289290, 312, 374, and 410. 


Nameless Conqueror (1917) [ca.1550] (on-line copy by FAMSI, edited by Alec Christensen). Narrative of Some Issues of New Spain and of the Nice Metropolis of Temestitan, Mxico. Marshall H. Saville (trans. and ed.). New York: The Cortes Society. OCLC 6720413. Retrieved 2008-01-12. 

Carrasco, David (1999). Metropolis of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Position of Violence in Civilization. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. ISBN Zero-8070-4642-6. OCLC 41368255. 

Daz del Castillo, Bernal (1963) . The Conquest of New Spain. Penguin Classics. J. M. Cohen (trans.) (sixth printing (1973) ed.). Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books. ISBN Zero-14-044123-9. OCLC 162351797. 

Durn, Diego (1994) [ca.1581]. The Historical past of the Indies of New Spain. Civilization of the American Indian collection, #210. Doris Heyden (trans., annot., and introd.) (English translation of Historia de las Indias de Nueva-Espaa y Islas de Tierra Firme ed.). Norman: College of Oklahoma Press. ISBN Zero-8061-2649-Three. OCLC 29565779. 

Godwin, Robert W. (2004). One Cosmos beneath God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Thoughts & Spirit. Saint Paul, MN: Paragon Home. ISBN 1-55778-836-7. OCLC 55131504. 

Hassig, Ross (1988). Aztec Warfare: Imperial Enlargement and Political Management. Civilization of the American Indian collection, no. 188. Norman: College of Oklahoma Press. ISBN Zero-8061-2121-1. OCLC 17106411. 

Len-Portilla, Miguel (1963). Aztec Thought and Tradition: A Research of the Historic Nhuatl Thoughts. Civilization of the American Indian collection, #67. Jack Emory Davis (trans.). Norman: College of Oklahoma Press. OCLC 181727. 

Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo (1998). Vida y muerte en el Templo Mayor (third ed.). Mxico D.F.: Fondo de Cultura Econmica. ISBN 968-16-5712-Eight. OCLC 40997904.  (Spanish)

Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard R. (June 1983). "Counting Skulls: Touch upon the Aztec Cannibalism Principle of Harner-Harris". American Anthropologist (Arlington, VA: American Anthropological Affiliation) 85 (2): 403406. doi:10.1525/aa.1983.85.2.02a00130. OCLC 1479294. 

Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard R. (1990). Aztec Drugs, Well being, and Vitamin. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers College Press. ISBN Zero-8135-1562-9. OCLC 20798977. 

Sahagn, Bernardino de (195082) [ca. 154085]. Florentine Codex: Common Historical past of the Issues of New Spain, 13 vols. in 12. vols. I-XII. Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J.O. Anderson (eds., trans., notes and illus.) (translation of Historia Basic de las Cosas de la Nueva Espaa ed.). Santa Fe, NM and Salt Lake Metropolis: Faculty for American Analysis and the College of Utah Press. ISBN Zero-87480-082-X. OCLC 276351. 

Schele, Linda; and Mary Ellen Miller (1992). Blood of Kings: Dynasty and Ritual in Maya Artwork. Justin Kerr (photographer) (2nd paperback edn., reprint with corrections ed.). New York: George Braziller. ISBN Zero-8076-1278-2. OCLC 41441466. 

v  d  e

Aztec faith and mythology

Aztec faith

Human sacrifice in Aztec tradition  Templo Mayor

Aztec mythology

Centeotl  Chalchiuhtlicue  Cihuacoatl  Coatlicue  Coyolxauhqui   Ehecatl  Huehuecoyotl  Huehueteotl  Huitzilopochtli  Mictlantecuhtli  Mixcoatl  Quetzalcoatl  Tepoztecatl  Tezcatlipoca  Tlaloc  Tlazolteotl  Toci  Tonatiuh  Xipe Totec  Xiuhcoatl   Xiuhtecuhtli  Xochipilli  Xochiquetzal  Xolotl 

Locations in Aztec fable

Aztln  Mictlan  Tlalocan  Tamoanchan  Tlillan-Tlapallan

Classes: Aztec society | Aztec mythology and faith | Human sacrificeHidden classes: All articles with unsourced statements | Articles with unsourced statements from November 2007

Back to Top