MEXICO CITY – Study of the skulls of victims of Aztec human sacrifices has cast doubt on the idea that the empire toppled nearly 500 years ago by the Spanish sacrificed only young warriors captured in battle, Mexican archaeologists said.
Tests are being conducted on 161 of the 461 skulls bound together with mortar on the altar of the chief temple of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, National Institute of Anthropology and History archaeologist Raul Barrera told EFE.
While 70 percent of the skulls belonged to males in their early 20s, 10 percent were those of children and 20 percent corresponded to women, he said.
Historians know that the Aztecs conducted raids across Mexico to seize loot and take prisoners who were brought back to Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City).
Until now, scholars thought that only young enemy warriors were subjected to human sacrifice, but the presence of the skulls of women and children raises new questions.
One possibility, according to Barrera, is that the women and children were marked out for sacrifice as embodiments of deities.
“In the pre-Columbian societies and in particular the Aztecs, there were some individuals – who could be men or women, even children – who personified deities. From childhood they might have personified some god and ultimately their destiny was to be sacrificed,” the archaeologist said.