Video: Human Sacrifice and Cannibalism in Central Mexico
This is Part Two of the Series on Cerro Gordo, the mountain that overlooks Teotihuacan. It is a 16 minute interlude to the two main parts, which explains the new discoveries at Teotihuacan and of Totonac religion, which radically changed my understanding of the ruins on Cerro Gordo. Actually, some of those discoveries are not so new. I found out that as early as 1904 Mexican archaeologists knew that babies had been sacrificed and placed under the corners of the Pyramid of the Sun. My textbook for the anthropology classes that I took prior to going to Mexico, An Introduction to American Archaeology by Gordon Willey (1966) stated that no evidence of human sacrifice had been found at Teotihuacan. The tour guides, given out at the museum shop at Teotihuacan, said the same thing.
What really was an eyeopener for me was reading professional articles on Totonac religion. Most of their human sacrifices were of babies and children and most of the killings occurred on mountaintops, where archaeologists seldom work. The Totonacs have consistently claimed to have been the former elite of Teotihuacan. Archaeologists have recently discovered a vast burial pit underneath the Plaza of the Columns that is so densely packed with skeletons that archaeologists cannot count them. Estimates range from 3,000 to 20,000 sacrificial victims.
Then there is the sheer scale of Aztec sacrifices. They averaged 20,000 to over 100,000 human victims a year. With those numbers, it is safe to say that human flesh composed a major percentage of the total “animal protein” consumed by the Aztec elite. In order to stamp out cannibalism, the Spanish had to rush in several ship loads of pigs, because the Aztecs thought that pork tasted like human flesh. The Totonacs were more egalitarian. Each month, each community would hold a feast, where the citizens would dine on a smõrgasbård composed of some of their neighbors, some babies and war captives. Without giving away all the surprises, let me tell you that my interpretation of the ruins on Cerro Gordo now strongly resembles the plots of the TV series, “Stargate.”
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