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Tenochtitlan Sacrifices Involved Locals, Not Just Prisoners of War -- Study

First Posted: Jan 26, 2016 07:00 AM EST
Human Sacrifice

Photo : Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Previously, it was widely believed that the humans sacrificed at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan were prisoners of wars -- foreigners taken from conquered areas.

However, the recent results of a study appeared to hint that the victims were not only POWs. Some of them were also individuals who had been living in the area, at least for six years. And they could also be women, children, and the elderly, as per Fox News Latino.

Researchers arrived at these conclusions after studying the remains of six persons among a number of victims found in the Great Temple. Samples were extracted from the teeth and skulls of the individuals, the remains of which had been dated as having lived from 1469 and 1521.

The samples were then subjected to a strontium isotope analysis to determine where the individuals came from.

Researchers noted that the victims' remains indicated that some of them lived among the Mexica for a while. The scientists concluded this with the assumption that, in ancient communities, it was not practical for people to travel from one region to another constantly. As such, they were bound to consume food found where they live.

Further, it was said that those who had been marked out as sacrificial victims but were not among those captured during war later became servants of the elite, which involved people having high political standing in society.

Human sacrifice was widely practiced in the Aztec empire. Archeological evidence proved that human sacrifice was regularly done as part of the ancient empire's religious observances. It apparently achieved its height after imperial vizier Tlacaelel raised the rank of the god of sun and war, Huitzilopochtli, to a position similar to that of Zeus in Greek mythology.

As the pre-eminent god, Huitzilopochtli needed regular nourishment through human hearts, according to Quartz. As such, the Aztecs supplied human victims for this purpose on a rather more urgent cycle, leading them to prey on their neighbors in order to fulfill their obligation to their god.

One particular batch in 1487 reportedly involved 84,000 victims, who were sacrificed in just four days. However, this number remained questionable, with some saying that only 4,000 were sacrificed.

Ultimately, as some historians speculated, the practice was said to be one of the factors that led the Aztecs to their downfall as it reportedly brought on a demographic crisis and even led its neighbors to ally with the Spanish colonizers and launch a concentrated attack on the empire.

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