Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice

I got A Patriot's History of the United States for Valentine's Day.

Reading about the conquest of the Americas, I came on what must be the land-speed record for human sacrifice: the killing of 80,400 prisoners in 96 hours by the Aztecs in 1487. That's shifts of four priests, round-the-clock, cutting the hearts out of prisoner while they're still alive, and kicking the corpses down the pyramid. Roughly 14 sacrifices a minute.

All this from a stone-age civilization that lacked even the wheel.

Here's the classic paper on why they did it:

The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice: "Recently, Borah, possibly the leading authority on the demography of Mexico at the time of the conquest, has also revised the estimated number of persons sacrificed in central Mexico in the fifteenth century to 250,000 per year, equivalent to one percent of the total population."

2 Comments:

Blogger James Stripes said...

I was interested to learn that this description in A Patriot's History has caught someone else's interest. I've blogged about it at http://historynotebook.blogspot.com/2007/12/mexica-human-sacrifice-1487.html

7:37 PM  
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