Aztec Burial Site Gives Evidence of Mass Human Sacrifice

Mexican archaeologists have found an unprecedented human burial in which the skeleton of a young woman is surrounded by piles of 1,789 human bones. Researchers have found the burial site about 15 feet below the surface in Mexico City’s Templo Mayor. The burial ground was discovered next to the remains of what many describe as a “sacred tree” at the edge of the plaza, the most sacred site of the Aztec capital.

The Aztects were not known to use mass sacrifice, or the reburial of bones as the customary ways to accompany the interment of a member of the ruling class. The National Institute of Anthropology and History calls this find “the first of its kind.”

aztec burial site

Archaeologists work on bones found at the Templo Mayor

University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, called the find, “unprecedented for the Aztec culture.” She said that when the Mayans interred sacrifice with royal burials, they were usually found as complete bodies, not as jumbles of different bone types, as is the case with this finding.

aztec burial site bones

The bones found at the burial site

Funerary deposits for Aztec elites have only rarely been encountered. However, bodies of sacrificial victims have been found in burials of elite persons in Mesoamerica going back at least to the Preclassic period, the archaeologists say. Some of the bones showed what may be cut marks to the sternum or vertebrae, places where ritual heart extraction might leave a mark.

aztec burial site tree trunk bones

Archaeologists found about 1,700 bones, including 10 skulls as well as a sacred Aztec tree trunk at the temple.

The researchers discovered the skulls of seven adults, and also three children in one pile. There was also long bones like femurs and ribs in another grouping. Anthropologists suggest that the bones were disinterred from previous burials, and reburied with the recent find.


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2 Responses to Aztec Burial Site Gives Evidence of Mass Human Sacrifice

  1. judithatwood says:

    I look at it from the viewpoints of the people involved. What currant society considers barbaric or worse, the society of that time may well have considered this kind of burial, and human sacrifice in general, the most sacred ritual they completed. We all die — bones are just people who died before we did.

  2. At once fascinating and gruesome. Specially the aspect of cutting the hearts out of the bodies.


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