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An anthropology blog meant to educate students and the public at large.
An Examination of Aztec Human Sacrifices The Aztec are an indigenous group of people who controlled a vast Mesoamerican empire for at least two centuries prior to their conquest by the Spanish in 16th century.
The Aztec empire was characterized by a public education system, extensive trade networks, creation of widespread roadways, state-wide religion, and a large military. Unfortunately, these great achievements are not what the Aztecs are most popularly known for, and instead it was their sacrificial rituals that they are most remembered for.
This blog post is dedicated to discussing Aztec sacrificial rituals. Topics that will be discussed include the types of sacrifices, the preferred sacrificial victims, and the potential motivations for these sacrifices. The Aztecs are believed to have practiced a number of types of sacrifices.
They were known to practice both animal and human sacrifice, but it appears that human sacrifice was the most popular type of sacrifice. The Aztecs practiced a variety of different types of human sacrifice.
These types included death by arrows, where individuals were lined up and executed by hundreds of archers who shot them; decapitation, where the head of the victim was removed from the body; drowning; gladiatorial combat, where victims were tied to rocks, given mock weapons, and forced to fight properly clad and weaponized warriors to the death; dying by impact, which involved being thrown or coerced off high temples; squeezing, typically involving victims being wrapped in nets and crushed; and finally through the extraction of the heart.
This latter type of sacrifice appears to have been the most popular, with at least two to ten individuals sacrificed through this method each month in every Aztec city.
This sacrificial method involved the extraction of the still beating heart of the victim who is believed to have witnessed the event. The body was then removed and dismembered, with various parts of the body being utilized for further ritual purposes. The Aztec culture was one that fostered a sense of desire among its members to become sacrificial victims.
To this end there was no limit to the number of individuals who could be recruited as it was one of three ways for individuals to enter a glorious afterlife with the other two ways being dying in battle or during childbirth.
Men, women, and children of all ages were eligible for sacrifice. The most common sacrificial victims were known as xochimicqui, who were captives of wars.
These prisoners of wars were also used as messengers of the sun as they would be employed to carry messages to the sun god after they were sacrificed. Women could volunteer to be sacrificed, as well, whereas children were often sold for the purpose.
In either case these individuals would be trained and catered to during the tenure prior to the ritual, which may have been an additional incentive to enter into this situation. The Aztec sacrifices were very entwined with religious ideologies.
Aztec sacrificial rituals closely mirror the creation and other myths that were central to the Aztec religion. But how and why those myths were created has been a contentious topic. One scholar, Michael Harner, believes that the Aztec sacrifices, specifically the removal of the heart, were a means of feeding the Aztec elites.
Harner claims that the Aztec capital existed in an environmentally hazardous area, which did not lend itself to regular production of agricultural crops. He also points out that the Aztecs did not have any stable beasts of burden or domesticated livestock, which would have provided an additional means of sustenance.
As a result, the Aztec elites may have advocated for cannibalism as a means of providing them a consistent and nutritious food source.empire but also in the elaborate preparations of ritual places, plants, animals and people for sacrifice through the deadly thrust of the sacrificial knife, the eruption of blood on the.
Aztec Empire: The Importance of Religion. Overview of the Aztec Empire Aztec System of Writing: Pictograms Aztec Art: Aztec Culture and Human Sacrifice Aztec Rituals and Religious Ceremonies Aztec Empire: Everyday Foods and Feasts Aztec Empire: Simple Clothing.
Combining investigation of both historical and archaeological sources, I hope to show that there’s far more to Aztec religion than the blood and hearts of sacrificial victims.
Harriet has just started a PhD, for which she was awarded a Faculty Scholarship, researching religion in the Aztec empire. An image of an Aztec obsidian sacrificial knife.
While these web pages have concentrated on the religion and world view of the Aztecs, one aspect of their culture and a vital element of important rituals cannot be ignored: death sacrifice. Aztec sacrifice - why? Of course, as we mentioned there was great religious significance to the Aztec sacrifice.
What its purposes were beyond that are debated. There's no doubt that it would have struck fear in the hearts of the natives that were not in the empire, and perhaps terrified the people in the empire as well.
One hundred years before its fall, the Aztec Empire went through an incredible change.
The emperor’s son, Tlacaelel, declared that the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, was to be the highest of all gods.