10 Unique Facts About Aztec Human Sacrifice
Politics and Activism

10 Unique Facts About Aztec Human Sacrifice

There might have been as many as 14 sacrificial victims being offered to the gods per minute for 24 consecutive hours.

3011
10 Unique Facts About Aztec Human Sacrifice
flickr

Human sacrifice is not an uncommon occurrence throughout history. In fact, archaeological excavations have shown that it probably existed as early as 2800 BCE within societies of the Eastern hemisphere of the world. Within Mesoamerica specifically, the pre-classic and classic civilizations of the Maya and Toltec were already practicing human sacrifice before the Aztec even settled in the Valley of Mexico.

But, human sacrifice is especially unique to Aztec culture because it played such a large role in the daily lives of indigenous people.

That being said, here are ten unique facts about Aztec sacrificial rituals that I found especially interesting.

1. The Aztec were cannibals

In his book The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice, Michael Harner discusses an "ecological basis" for Aztec sacrifice. He explains that the Aztec might have sacrificed humans for food to support their need for protein within a diet that was mainly reliant upon agricultural products because of a declining number of game within the region.

Some sources even indicate that the consumption of the human flesh was considered a delicacy for members of the Aztec aristocracy.

2. It is difficult to account for the precise amount of human sacrifices that occurred

This estimation is difficult because indigenous accounts of numbers from the Aztec were often exaggerated as a tactic to intimidate potential war opponents.

However, it has been indicated that there might have been as many as 250,00 sacrificial victims offered by the Aztec Empire annually.

3. There might have been as many as 14 sacrificial victims being offered to the gods per minute at one ceremony

One source by a scholar of Aztec studies (Ross Hassig) indicates that there might have been as many as 10,000-80,400 sacrificial victims at one ritualistic ceremony. This would mean that there were 14 victims being sacrificed every minute. This is more than likely a hyperbole, but it is very fascinating to think about.

4. Spanish friars and conquistadors thought the Aztec were savages

Scholars definitively know that Aztec human sacrifice occurred because of primary written records from Spanish friars and conquistadors that describe observances of these ceremonies.

A common thread among these documents is the Spaniard's culture shock and bewilderment at seeing the sacrifices. In one of his letters, Hernán Cortés even describes the rituals as "an abomination."

Later in time, the Spaniards would use these sacrificial rituals as a justification for the conquering of indigenous people. The Spanish ideology focused on the idea that any culture practicing such a savage ritual was almost "subhuman" and worthy of conquest.

Within the process of conquest, the Aztecs were the most hesitant to abandon their sacrificial rituals. It was easier for the Spanish settlers to change other elements of the Aztec culture, but the abandonment of a value of human sacrifice was difficult to eliminate.

5. The Aztec had a political motivation for sacrificing individuals

Aztec culture had a complex social hierarchy. One of the ways for individuals to achieve social mobility into a class of nobles was by providing the kingdom with a large number of sacrificial victims. This was a way for the warriors to prove their prestige.

6. Sacrifice was needed to propitiate the gods within the context of their 52-year cycle

When a majority of people think about Aztec sacrifice, they think about the way it was used with a religious motivation. The Aztec did sacrifice in order to propitiate their gods. In fact, they had a system that dictated which gods would be sacrificed to within each month. It wasn't just sporadic. For instance, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc might be sacrificed to one month, then Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl might be sacrificed to during the next month.


Every fifty-two years, the Aztec thought they needed to offer the blood of sacrificial victims to refuel the "New Fire" and prolong time. They thought this was a way to prevent the world from ending.

7. The Flower Wars were intense

There was a period of time within Aztec culture in which the environment was ridden by drought and famine. In order to ask their gods for a favor, the Aztec turned to an increased amount of sacrificial rituals.

This resulted in the creation of a "Flower War." The Aztec would enter neighboring areas and forcibly take victims back to their empire to serve as the centerpieces for their sacrificial rituals. This was not a formal warfare because it did not follow the patterns specific to formal war battles.

The Aztec justified their ability to do this by saying that they were simultaneously providing their victims with a better afterlife with Huitzilopochtli while helping themselves.

8. The way victims were sacrificed depended upon their role as a sacrificial victim, while the audience auto-sacrificed.

Depending on the god that was being honored or the reason for the sacrifice, sacrificial rituals occurred in different ways. The majority of the ceremonies occurred in the fashion of the sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli which followed this pattern:

1. The victim would be taken to the top of the temple.

2. The victim would be laid on the chacmool (stone slab) by four priests.

3. A fifth priest would take a flint knife and extract the "tona" or heart. The heart represented a special bond between the victim and the sun.

4. The fifth priest would grab the heart and put it in a bowl held by the statue of the honored god being worshiped at that particular ceremony.

5. The body would then be rolled down the numerous steps of the temple. The head was often separated from the rest of the body and put on a display for the observers to view.

6.The remains of the victim would be fed to zoo animals or eaten by the worshipers in a ceremonial dinner as a form of ritualistic cannibalism.

Often while the ceremony was occurring, observers would draw blood from their own bodies to pay individual respect to the god. This auto-sacrifice was mostly done by priests, but other viewers practiced it, as well.

9. The Aztec sacrificed children

The Aztec often sacrificed children to the god Tlaloc. This deity served as the provider of rain, water, and prosperous earthly fertility. Some articles indicate that the Aztec thought the tears of the children were necessary to propitiate this god. (I don't know if the Aztec actually thought that, but I read it in an article online.)

10. The archaeological evidence for Aztec sacrifice is astounding

There are masses of skulls found at the bases of large Aztec temples, which indicate human sacrifice.

At the Templo Mayor, the largest temple of Aztec sacrifice, there have been recent findings of a large grave consisting only of women and children.

The Templo Mayor was a double pyramid devoted to the gods Huitzilopochtli (of War, Sun, Human Sacrifice) and Tezcatlipoca (of night, sorcery, and destiny). Huitzilopochtli was sacrificed by the extraction of the heart, but Tezcatlipoca was honored by having a youth incarnate serve as the sacrificial victim. This youth incarnate saw his role as honorable and would go around the city for a period of days prior to the sacrifice dressed like Tetzcatlipoca and playing a flute.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Swoon

119 People Reveal How The Pandemic Has Affected Their Love Lives, And Honestly... Relatable

"I haven't been able to get out of the 'talking phase' with anyone."

The reality is, there's no part of life the pandemic hasn't affected. Whether it's your work life, your home life, your social life, or your love life, coronavirus (COVID-19) is wreaking havoc on just about everything — not to mention people's health.

When it comes to romance, in particular, people are all handling things differently and there's no "right way" of making it through, regardless of your relationship status (single, taken, married, divorced, you name it). So, some of Swoon's creators sought out to hear from various individuals on how exactly their love lives have been affected since quarantine began.

Keep Reading... Show less
Featured

Nordstrom's Biggest Sale Has The Most Legendary Deals On Luxury Beauty Brands We've Ever Seen

Counting down the days to the Chanel box set gracing my front door.

I oftentimes (excessively) use the excuse of my job as a writer to justify my excessive spending habits.

I needed the new Huda Beauty palette before anyone else in the name of journalistic integrity. It was my job to test out the new Francis Kurkdjian fragrance to make sure I could tell people whether or not it was truly worth the splurge (it was).

Keep Reading... Show less

Listen, you can do whatever you want with your free time. It's yours to spend and you have free range. However, I hope you recognize that there are a ton of proactive things you can do right now instead of stalking your man's ex – yes, I know you do it becuase we are all guilty of it.

Take this time to research your privilege. There are always new things to learn and ways to deepen your understanding of yourself, this world, and your surroundings. We live in a multi-dimensional, ever-changing society that needs your help and your time. By that, I mean there are so many layers to each and every one of us, and with our physical, mental, spiritual, or emotional selves, we can create real, positive change.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

Preview These Top Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2020 Picks — From Luxury Purses To Skincare

Currently 3 million people viewing the Stella McCartney purse I absolutely must have.

Online shopping has been a guilty pleasure of ours for years, but now more than ever it's been a shopping lover's outlet for all our home redecorating projects and resort wear we're purchasing for that trip we had to cancel.

One of my favorite places to (virtually) window shop has always been Nordstrom. I admittedly can't afford to go on sprees there often, but I still get a high off of adding things to my cart I know I'll never actually end up buying. But sometimes, that's not enough — that's when I, like the masses of luxury-, beauty-, fashion-, and decor-lovers around the world count the days down to the annual Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Keep Reading... Show less

I remember the days where closet drinking before going to a party or bar was part of the night's itinerary. It was a requirement to have a good buzz flowing before calling the Uber to take you to that bar where you see everyone from your high school at. The pregames were the best part of the night, but it wasn't ever because of the alcohol, it was because of the atmosphere and those who were in it. The number of times I've heard "Wait, why aren't you drinking tonight? C'mon, get drunk with us" is endless, but think about it. Where were you when you were asked that? You were at the goddamn pregame and being there doesn't mean you need to be ripping shots. Being social doesn't require alcohol.

I asked 20 people how they cut back on alcohol while still being social.

Keep Reading... Show less

Whether you are quarantining away from your significant other because of coronavirus or separated by the country lines at this time, it's fair to say that long-distance relationships are tough no matter what. However, there are ways to show love from a distance whether that's through daily FaceTime calls, cute Snapchats, or sexy pics sent to them on their phone. You can brighten up their day even more with some of these unique gifts that can fit any price range and a variety of interests.

Keep Reading... Show less

Rihanna is known for many things: her music, fashion, makeup, and now skincare. As a makeup artist myself, I can confidently say that she rocked the makeup world when she released her makeup line in 2017 and has been influencing the beauty world ever since.

Trying some of her makeup products myself, I know that she doesn't skimp on quality, and even though some of her products may be a little pricey, trust me, you get what you pay for.

Keep Reading... Show less

Friends, no one needs to be reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic rages on in the U.S. Frankly, this is because we have all collectively decided not to do the one simple thing that was asked of us and wear a mask.

I could make this a very boring article, and berate you with facts and statistics and the importance of wearing a mask, but I have opted against that for both of our sakes. Instead, I will attempt to reach you in another way. You might not care about a disapproving look from me, but from Nick Miller? Maybe that will be enough to change your mind.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments