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Video: Human Sacrifice and Cannibalism in Central Mexico

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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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

21 Comments

  1. MBroam@gmail.com'

    I’m a long time reader of your work, and just wanted to say thanks for all you do. The history of the South East that you have uncovered is fascinating!

    Reply
    • Michael, I don’t pretend to have all the facts at any given moment, but I promise readers that I am forever trying the find the facts . . . even if it takes 50 years! LOL

      Reply
  2. kkakins@gmail.com'

    I wasn’t a fan of pork before I read this post and now I’m REALLY not a fan! Don’t know that I can ever eat bacon again! I do believe that all myths and legends have a basis in fact. I have to think that this group of people were part of the population that Gen. 6 speaks of.

    Reply
    • Don’t go to the extreme of giving up bacon! However, when serving lawyers or politicians to your family and guests, just remember that it is important to keep them penned for two weeks, while they fed nothing but cornbread and buttermilk. The same goes for serving possum.

      Reply
      • IWG42@HOTMAIL.COM'

        Hey Richard
        And remember to smoke them low and slow because lawyers and politicians are a cheap tough cut like brisket.

        Reply
        • Sorry, I forgot to mention that. Thanks for reminding me!

          Reply
      • pres@gloriafarley.com'

        Richard, isn’t eating lawyers and politicians quite cruel and viscous — to the diners? Unless you have come up with some secret Indian cure for terminal indigestion, do we need to go here?

        Reply
        • Tabasco Sauce overpowers the fetid taste and also kills the parasitic worms that might be lurking in the flesh.

          Reply
  3. pres@gloriafarley.com'

    Pigs are extensively used in medical research because their physiology is very close to that of humans. So is it any wonder that the the Spanish could get away with the switch?

    Reply
  4. southie38@gmail.com'

    are there any suggestions of a sexual component to the killings and cannibalism ?

    Reply
    • The only connection to sexuality that I have seen is the sacrificing of babies to the Totonac goddess Tzinteotl to insure more babies. The scam worked in the same manner that preachers of mega-churches telling their congregation that if they tithe to their church, God will give them pay raises at work.

      Reply
      • southie38@gmail.com'

        did they use slaves for sex?

        Reply
        • I don’t know. Probably not for those destined to be sacrificed, but I have never read one way or another. Probably so for female slaves, used as domestic help.

          Reply
          • southie38@gmail.com'

            what about pedophilia and homosexuality like the Catholic church?

          • I have no idea. It is not mentioned much.

      • southie38@gmail.com'

        Chilam Balam?

        Reply
  5. pres@gloriafarley.com'

    Richard, the thing that you don’t cover in this matter is the implication of the number of “Happy Meals” that were consumed each year. This would imply a sizeable population in the region that was needed to support this level of consumption, without “eating the seed corn” as it were. This would be yet another line of evidence for the assertion of the pre-contact native population being much greater than usually is taught.

    Reply
    • I am going to get into that in Part Three. Unlike the advanced cultures in South America, the Mesoamerican civilizations really did not develop large scale animal husbandry. Turkeys were their only domesticated animal of sufficient size to “put meat on the table.” Central Mexico’s environment was ideal for agriculture, but did not have a whole lot of game animals to support the dense populations around the lakes in the Valley of Mexico. The elite’s regular consumption of human flesh offset the lack of protein in the commoner’s diets. Over generations, it would almost create to sub-races. One strong, tall and muscular the other, best suited for farm labor.

      Reply
  6. lbtagawa@gmail.com'

    Hawaiians sacrificed slaves to put into the foundations of important temples. Cannabalism is thought to have been restricted to a ritual type rather than a source of food (they already had pigs, BTW!). The Hawaiians seemed to be the more peaceful subgroup of Polynesians and yet they practiced these things and engaged in inter-island warfare until Kamehameha, just before the missionaries came (a brave lot of people, considering). And I wonder about the Celts in this connection, too, as these various people groups have been mentioned in your blogs.

    Reply
    • That is very true. In subsequent parts of the series on Teotihuacan, I will discuss the similarities in the architecture and religious traditions of Teotihuacan and the Polynesians.

      Reply

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