Aztec cannibalism of invaders

Friday, 25th August 2006
Wed 23 Aug 2006
Boiled bones show Aztecs butchered, ate invaders
By Catherine Bremer
CALPULALPAN, Mexico (Reuters) - Skeletons found at an unearthed site in
Mexico show Aztecs captured, ritually sacrificed and partially ate
several hundred people travelling with invading Spanish forces in 1520.

Skulls and bones from the Tecuaque archaeological site near Mexico City
show about 550 victims had their hearts ripped out by Aztec priests in
ritual offerings, and were dismembered or had their bones boiled or
scraped clean, experts say.
The findings support accounts of Aztecs capturing and killing a caravan
of Spanish conquistadors and local men, women and children travelling
with them in revenge for the murder of Cacamatzin, king of the Aztec
empire's No. 2 city of Texcoco.
Experts say the discovery proves some Aztecs did resist the
conquistadors led by explorer Hernan Cortes, even though history books
say most welcomed the white-skinned horsemen in the belief they were
returning Aztec gods.
"This is the first place that has so much evidence there was resistance
to the conquest," said archaeologist Enrique Martinez, director of the
dig at Calpulalpan in Tlaxcala state, near Texcoco.
"It shows it wasn't all submission. There was a fight."
The caravan was apparently captured because it was made up mostly of the
mulatto, mestizo, Maya Indian and Caribbean men and women given to the
Spanish as carriers and cooks when they landed in Mexico in 1519, and so
was moving slowly.
The prisoners were kept in cages for months while Aztec priests from
what is now Mexico City selected a few each day at dawn, held them down
on a sacrificial slab, cut out their hearts and offered them up to
various Aztec gods.
Some may have been given hallucinogenic mushrooms or pulque -- an
alcoholic milky drink made from fermented cactus juice -- to numb them
to what was about to happen.

"It was a continuous sacrifice over six months. While the prisoners were
listening to their companions being sacrificed, the next ones were being
selected," Martinez said, standing in his lab amid boxes of bones, some
of young children.
"You can only imagine what it was like for the last ones, who were left
six months before being chosen, their anguish."
The priests and town elders, who performed the rituals on the steps of
temples cut off by a perimeter wall, sometimes ate their victims' raw
and bloody hearts or cooked flesh from their arms and legs once it
dropped off the boiling bones.
Knife cuts and even teeth marks on the bones show which ones had meat
stripped off to be eaten, Martinez said.
Some pregnant women in the group had their unborn babies stabbed inside
their bellies as part of the ritual.
In Aztec times the site was called Zultepec, a town of white-stucco
temples and homes where some 5,000 people grew maize and beans and
produced pulque to sell to traders.
Priests had to be brought in for the ritual killings because human
sacrifices had never before taken place there, Martinez said.
On hearing of the months-long massacre, Cortes renamed the town Tecuaque
-- meaning "where people were eaten" in the indigenous Nahuatl language
-- and sent an army to wipe out its people.
When they heard the Spanish were coming, the Zultepec Aztecs threw their
victims' possessions down wells, unwittingly preserving buttons and
jewellery for the archaeologists.
The team, which began work here in 1990, also found remains of domestic
animals brought from Spain, like goats and pigs.
"They hid all the evidence," said Martinez. "Thanks to that act, we have
been allowed to discover a chapter we were unaware of in the conquest of
(c) Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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