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Fragments of human bones help investigators to determine that Mexicas practiced cannibalism
The archaeologist pointed out that the flesh of those sacrificed was ingested in specific ceremonies by individuals of a high social status, but it wasn’t a common meal in their diet. Photo: INAH.
MEXICO CITY.- Fragments of human bones that show cuts and prolonged exposure to fire, have allowed investigators to conclude that during the Post Classic period (900 through 1521 AD) rulers, priests and some high ranking warriors practiced cannibalism as a religious rite.

The findings are a result of recent investigations by archaeologist Gabino Lopez Arenas on craniums, tibia, humerus and jaws located among the offerings of the Great Temple and in the surroundings of the historical center.

Lopez Arenas explained that the osteological evidence found in the Sacred Grounds of Tenochtitlan, allows the conclusion that individuals were decapitated and dismembered, the majority of which still possessed bland tissue.

“We observed that immediately after the victims were immolated their flesh was removed, this is confirmed because a great quantity of bones had cuts and alterations that were done while the bone was fresh and recently exposed to fire”, he assured.

The specialist added that the practice of cannibalism had the purpose of “absorbing the divine strength that remained in the victim’s bodies: To Mexicas, the human victims were the incarnation of the gods they represented, and by eating their flesh they could share their divinity”.

The archaeologist pointed out that the flesh of those sacrificed was ingested in specific ceremonies by individuals of a high social status, but it wasn’t a common meal in their diet.

Lopez Arenas quoted the famous Spanish writer Francisco Cervantes Salazar, whom added that the arms and legs in the cannibalistic ritual were the most appreciated parts and the most frequently eaten, but the hands and the feet exclusively belonged to the priests and rulers. “To give someone these parts was a distinction, since these were considered the most delicious. The blood was never consumed because it was exclusively for the gods”.

The investigator also added a quote from Diego Duran to his investigation; he wrote that within the Mexica militia one of the privileges of warriors who attained the rank of tequihua was to eat human meat in certain ceremonies.

Lopez Arenas mentioned that these rituals were made in certain dates. For example, during the parties made celebrating the first month of the Mexica calendar (atlacahualo), several children were sacrificed to honor the gods of water or rain, and after they were killed they were cooked and eaten.

Meanwhile, during the tlacaxipehualizli month, those sacrificed in the temple of the god Huitzilopochtli were devoured in the house of the warrior that captured them.




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