The Aztecs tower of skulls in Mexico City: Archaeologists have found more than 650 skulls near the site of the Templo Mayor.
The tower is believed to form part of the Huey Tzompantli, a massive array of what was once thousands of skulls from ritual sacrifices of men, women and children.
A tower of human skulls unearthed beneath the heart of Mexico City has raised new questions about the culture of sacrifice in the Aztec Empire after crania of women and children surfaced among the hundreds embedded in the forbidding structure.
Archaeologists have found 676 skulls so far and the number will rise as excavations of the Aztecs tower of skulls continue. The severed heads are caked in lime and thousands of fragments in the cylindrical edifice near the site of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.
The tower is believed to form part of the Huey Tzompantli, a massive array of skulls that was used to strike fear into the hearts of enemies and prisoners like the Spanish conquistadores.
The mystery of the women and chrildren skulls
But the archaeological dig in the bowels of old Mexico City suggests that picture was not complete.
Archeologists were expecting just men, obviously young men, as warriors would be, and neither women nor children. Something is happening that scientists have no record of, and this is really new, a first in the Huey Tzompantli. The skulls would have been set in the tower after they had stood on public display on the tzompantli.
Roughly six meters in diameter, the tower stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli, Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice. Its base has yet to be unearthed.
The tower was one of the skull edifices mentioned by Andres de Tapia, a Spanish soldier who accompanied Cortes in the 1521 conquest of Mexico and who reported counting tens of thousands of skulls.
The Aztecs and other Mesoamerican peoples performed ritualistic human sacrifices as offerings to the sun. In a typical ritual, sacrificial victims would have their still-beating hearts torn out by a priest. The victim’s abdomen would be sliced open by a fifth priest using a ceremonial flint knife to cut right through the diaphragm and split open the chest. It would then be placed in a bowl held by a statue of the honoured god, and the body thrown down the temple’s stairs landing at a terrace at the base of the pyramid.
The Templo Mayor (Spanish for ‘Great Temple’) was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City.
The new archeological discovery of this tower of human skulls beneath the heart of Mexico City is now raising new questions about the culture of sacrifice in the Aztec Empire after crania of women and children surfaced among the hundreds embedded in the forbidding structure.