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Tower of human skulls in Mexico casts new light on Aztecs

Yahoo News

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A tower of human skulls unearthed beneath the heart of Mexico City has raised new questions about the culture of sacrifice in the Aztec Empire after crania of women and children surfaced among the hundreds embedded in the forbidding structure.

Archaeologists have found more than 650 skulls caked in lime and thousands of fragments in the cylindrical edifice near the site of the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City.  

The tower is believed to form part of the Huey Tzompantli, a massive array of skulls that struck fear into the Spanish conquistadores when they captured the city under Hernan Cortes, and mentioned the structure in contemporary accounts.

Historians relate how the severed heads of captured warriors adorned tzompantli, or skull racks, found in a number of Mesoamerican cultures before the Spanish conquest.

But the archaeological dig in the bowels of old Mexico City that began in 2015 suggests that picture was not complete.

“We were expecting just men, obviously young men, as warriors would be, and the thing about the women and children is that you’d think they wouldn’t be going to war,” said Rodrigo Bolanos, a biological anthropologist investigating the find.

“Something is happening that we have no record of, and this is really new, a first in the Huey Tzompantli,” he added.

Raul Barrera, one of the archaeologists working at the site alongside the huge Metropolitan Cathedral built over the Templo Mayor, said the skulls would have been set in the tower after they had stood on public display on the tzompantli.

Roughly six meters in diameter, the tower stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice. Its base has yet to be unearthed.

There was no doubt that the tower was one of the skull edifices mentioned by Andres de Tapia, a Spanish soldier who accompanied Cortes in the 1521 conquest of Mexico, Barrera said.

In his account of the campaign, de Tapia said he counted tens of thousands of skulls at what became known as the Huey Tzompantli. Barrera said 676 skulls had so far been found, and that the number would rise as excavations went on.

The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples performed ritualistic human sacrifices as offerings to the sun.

(Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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6 Responses to Tower of human skulls in Mexico casts new light on Aztecs

  1. Enemy of the State says:

    A brand new house on the road side , and it’s made out of rattlesnake hide.

    Got a brand new chimney baby, put on top
    And it’s made outa human skull

    Come on take a little walk with me baby
    And tell me , who do you love

    When the S hits the fan
    Skulls on fence posts will also be a sign


    “Tower of human skulls in Mexico casts new light on Aztecs”


  3. DL. says:

    That’s the problem I had with the movie “Apocalypto,”–Mel Gibson should have made this one about the Aztecs, not the Mayans! In fact I really thought when watching it that it was about the Aztecs…especially at the end when the Spaniard ships were coming. But what does one expect from a so-called “movie director” who directed “The Passion of the Christ,” which was about as Biblically inaccurate as one could make it? The ol’ “Veronica wiped the face of Jesus” (which became the “Shroud of Turin” right?) is just the tip of the iceberg–there is no Veronica in the Bible!

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