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Aztec sacrifices at Tenochtitlán

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Kara Sundstrom
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« on: March 03, 2013, 02:29:54 am »

   
Aztec sacrifices at Tenochtitlán

Article created on Thursday, February 21, 2013
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Offerings in the ancient Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlán (now in modern Mexico City) have been linked to the cycle of the agricultural seasons and involved human sacrifice to Quilaztli Cihuacóatl, one of the  Aztec goddesses of earth and fertility.
Fray Diego Durán, Aztecs: The History of the Indies of New Spain. Sacrifice of children. Image: INAH


http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/02/2013/aztec-sacrifices-at-tenochtitlan

Fray Diego Durán, Aztecs: The History of the Indies of New Spain. Sacrifice of children. Image: INAH
Ritual deposits

Two 500 year old ritual depositions were located at the corner of the platform north of Templo Mayor and consisted of various artefacts, including human skulls and polychrome pots and were the subject of a presentation in Mexico City this month.

According to the archaeologist Diego Jimenez Badilla, a researcher at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), these offerings “were part of a ritual in which Tenochca returns fertility to the land, in exchange for these offerings at each harvest. Such offerings were made  to the land via the earth and fertility goddess. “

The practice was discussed by the specialist at a recent conference in honour of the thirty-fifth anniversary of the discovery of the disc monolith on the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui, now in the Museo del Templo Mayor (MTM ).

Both offerings (No. 22 and No.58) were discovered in 1979 and 1980, on a floor level corresponding to the construction of Templo Mayor between 1469-1481 CE and in interpreting these elements together, he commented that “nothing is arranged in an offering by chance, everything has a reason.”
Saw toothed snout of the Sawfish or Carpenter Shark. Image: INAH

Saw toothed snout of the sawfish or Carpenter Shark. Image: INAH
Offerings linked to the land

During the presentation, the archaeologist explained the relationship of these offerings to the goddess Cihuacóatl Hispanic-Quilaztli, a mother earth deity related to fertility, and how the meaning of each element of the offerings were linked  to the agricultural cycle.

The two offerings consist of a sawfish toothed snout, clay models of cranial deformation cradles, a fragmented mask made with a human skull and a pot with the effigy of the deity of fertility. In addition was the skull of a child who has been ritually sacrificed as well as several turtle shells, sea shells and hundreds of green stones.

Diego explained that each of these objects is directly related to the germination of corn. “The ceramic effigy (see main image) wears a garland of marigolds that still retains traces of yellow paint and there are symbols regarded as blue clouds, as well as bun-feature on the figurine’s headdress that resemble ears of corn.”

Contemporary writers of the sixteenth century, such as the friars Diego Duran and Sahagun, mentioned that in certain ceremonies called titl, a young maiden dressed in the garb of the goddess Cihuacóatl-Quilaztli was beheaded with a sawfish blade – the Aztec called acipactli, meaning ‘instrument of sacrifice’, in order to bring about germination of the corn fields.

All these elements; acipactliand; young decapitated skulls and effigy of the goddess Cihuacóatl-Quilaztli were found in the offerings.

The young girl was aged 14 – 16 years old when she was sacrificed, maybe dressed as the deity herself, as they found adornments that are characteristic of the goddess such as earrings and a necklace of seven snails, alluding to the seven ears of corn borne by Cihuacóatl Quilaztli.
Offerings from Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan included human sacrifice to Quilaztli Cihuacóatl, and model cradles designed for cranial deformation. Image: INAH

Offerings from Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan included human sacrifice to Quilaztli Cihuacóatl, and model cradles designed for cranial deformation. Image: INAH
Cranial deformation cradles

Diego also remarked that crib deformation models relate to a myth narrated by the Friar Diego Durán in the late 16th century, in which he says “..when the earth goddess believed that the sacrifices in her honour were sufficient she would come to Tlatelolco market carrying a wooden cradle with an infant strapped within,  promising to return soon.”

“When she did not return for the child,  those watching the cradle found an obsidian knife instead of an infant, which was interpreted by the population as a requirement , by the goddess for more human sacrifices. “

Jimenez Badillo explained that these strapped cradles were used during the first weeks after birth, with the intention of creating skull deformations for which they tied cloths on the forehead to generate pressure.

Finally, the researcher explained how the snails, shells, mother of pearl and hundreds of green stones, symbolised the cold water environment of the underworld where the earth deities lived, so the Aztecs tried to reproduce this space within the offering.

Source: INAH
More Information
   

    Museo del Templo Mayor
    National Institute of Anthropology and History
    [1] Fray Diego Durán, 1581, The History of the Indies of New Spain, University of Oklahoma Press, 1994

Cite this article

INAH. Aztec sacrifices at Tenochtitlán . Past Horizons. February 20, 2013, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/02/2013/aztec-sacrifices-at-tenochtitlan
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Kara Sundstrom
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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2013, 02:32:29 am »




Ceramic fertility figurine / Tenochtitlán Diego Rivera, National Palace. Images: INAH/Wikimedia
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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2013, 02:33:04 am »

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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2013, 02:33:33 am »

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« Reply #4 on: March 03, 2013, 02:34:19 am »




Offerings from Templo Mayor, Tenochtitlan included human sacrifice to Quilaztli Cihuacóatl, and model cradles designed for cranial deformation. Image: INAH
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