Human Sacrifice

Pre-Columbian Americas

Altar for human sacrifice at Monte Alban

Some of the most famous forms of ancient human sacrifice were performed by various Pre-Columbian civilizations in the Americas.[41] that included the sacrifice of prisoners as well as voluntary sacrifice. Friar Marcus de Nica (1539) writing of the “Chichimecas“: that from time to time “they of this valley cast lots whose luck (honor) it shall be to be sacrificed, and they make him great cheer, on whom the lot falls, and with great joy they crown him with flowers upon a bed prepared in the said ditch all full of flowers and sweet herbs, on which they lay him along, and lay great store of dry wood on both sides of him, and set it on fire on either part, and so he dies” and “that the victim took great pleasure” in being sacrificed.[42]


The Mixtec players of the Mesoamerican ballgame were sacrificed when the game was used to resolve a dispute between cities. The rulers would play a game instead of going to battle. The losing ruler would be sacrificed. The ruler “Eight Deer” was considered a great ball player and won several cities this way, until he lost a ball game and was sacrificed.

The Maya held the belief that cenotes or limestone sinkholes were portals to the underworld and sacrificed human beings to please the water god Chaac. The most notable example of this is the “Sacred Cenote” at Chichen Itza where extensive excavations have recovered the remains of 42 individuals, half of them under twenty years old.

In the Post-Classic period, the victims and the altar are represented as daubed in a hue now known as Maya Blue, obtained from the añil plant and the clay mineral palygorskite.[43]

Aztec sacrifices, Codex Mendoza.

The Aztecs were particularly noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale; an offering to Huitzilopochtli would be made to restore the blood he lost, as the sun was engaged in a daily battle. Human sacrifices would prevent the end of the world that could happen on each cycle of 52 years. In the 1487 re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan some estimate that 80,400 prisoners were sacrificed.[44][45]though numbers are difficult to quantify as all obtainable Aztec texts were destroyed by Christian missionaries during the period 1528-1548.[46]

According to Ross Hassig, author of Aztec Warfare, “between 10,000 and 80,400 people” were sacrificed in the ceremony. The old reports of numbers sacrificed for special feasts have been described as “unbelievably high” by some authors [46]and that on cautious reckoning, based on reliable evidence, the numbers would have been in the hundreds for yearly feasts in Tenochtitlan.[46] The real number of sacrificed victims during the 1487 consecration is unknown.

Michael Harner, in his 1997 article The Enigma of Aztec Sacrifice, estimates the number of persons sacrificed in central Mexico in the 15th century as high as 250,000 per year. Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, a Mexica descendant and the author of Codex Ixtlilxochitl, claimed that one in five children of the Mexica subjects was killed annually. Victor Davis Hanson argues that an estimate by Carlos Zumárraga of 20,000 per annum is more plausible. Other scholars believe that, since the Aztecs always tried to intimidate their enemies, it is more likely that they could have inflated the number as a propaganda tool.[47][48]

Tlaloc would require weeping boys in the first months of the Aztec calendar to be ritually murdered.

Engraved seashell from ancient Tennessee with Southern Cult imagery evocative of human sacrifice.

Sacrifices to Xipe Totec were bound to a post and shot full of arrows. The dead victim would be skinned and a priest would use the skin. Earth mother Teteoinnan required flayed female

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