Death is only the beginning: why the Aztecs killed more than 20,000 men, women, and children every year

Maria Tsikhotska

Death is only the beginning: why the Aztecs killed more than 20,000 men, women, and children every year

The Aztec empire disappeared more than 500 years ago, but still remains a mystery to scientists. Some sources say that when Cortés and his soldiers arrived in the Aztec capital, they witnessed a gruesome human sacrifice ceremony.

Scientists called this story a fiction and an exaggeration that the Spaniards used to justify the massacres of the locals led by Montezuma and their enslavement. But what archaeologists found in the main Aztec temple in Tenochtitlan (Mexico City) made scientists reconsider their beliefs.

History writes about it.

According to one of the conquistadors, Andrés de Tapia, there were towers made of human skulls on both sides of the temple. Between them was a wooden rack of skulls with holes in the sides that allowed them to slide along the poles.

According to the historian Caroline Dodds Pennock, the Aztecs did indeed do this: "There were five priests, one for each limb. One of them would take out the heart," she said. As a rule, criminals or prisoners of war were sacrificed. Every year, more than 20,000 men, women, and children were given life to the gods.

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"What seems horrible now was a necessity for the Aztecs. Sacrifice made the gods happy and guaranteed the sunrise every morning," the historian added.

In addition to prisoners of war and criminals, many Aztecs also volunteered to give their lives to Vicilopochtli, the Aztec god of the sun and war, guaranteeing themselves a blessed life in the afterlife. For them, death was only the beginning.

In addition, scientists have determined that the Aztecs practiced cannibalism: archaeologists have found traces of butchery on human bones. Also, Aztec illustrations clearly show parts of human bodies being cooked in pots.

As a reminder, a 6000-year-old settlement full of ancient artifacts was discovered in France.

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