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The Full, Brutal Horror of the Aztec ‘Skull Tower’ Revealed *VIDEO* #science #Azteca #Mexico

A team of researchers has uncovered what they describe as a skull rack—a basketball court length wall of skulls with poles passed through them—in Mexico City. Lizzie Wade, with ScienceMag, outlines the work being done by a team from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

In 2015 archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found a gruesome ‘trophy rack’ near the site of the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City.

Now, they say the find was just the tip of the iceberg, and that the Aztec ‘skull tower’ was just a small part of a massive display of skulls known as Huey Tzompantli that was the size of a basketball court.

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According to the new research detailed in Science, captives were first taken to the city’s Templo Mayor, or great temple, where priests removed their still-beating hearts.

The bodies were then decapitated and Aztec priests removed the skin and muscle from the corpses’ heads.

The skull rack was found to be approximately 35 meters in length and approximately five meters high. It once consisted of wood posts at either end with smaller posts spaced every few meters between them. Wooden poles stretched horizontally between the posts. It would have looked like a high wooden fence.

But it was used instead to hold human skulls—each had holes bored on either side to allow for sliding them onto a pole, like beads on an abacus. The wood was decayed, of course, but evidence found at the site allowed the team to piece together the original structure, along with the skulls.

After months or years in the sun and rain, the skulls would begin to fall to pieces, losing teeth and even jaws.

At this point, Aztec priests would remove it to be fashioned into a mask and placed in an offering, or use mortar to add it to two towers of skulls that flanked the rack.

Some Spanish conquistadors wrote about the tzompantli and its towers, estimating that the rack alone contained 130,000 skulls.

The skull edifices were mentioned by Andres de Tapia, a Spanish soldier who accompanied Cortes in the 1521 conquest of Mexico..

In his account of the campaign, de Tapia said he counted tens of thousands of skulls at what became known as the Huey Tzompantli.

The skulls were seen by the Aztecs as ‘the seeds that would ensure the continued existence of humanity’ and a sign of life and regeneration, like the first flowers of spring, archaeologists believe.

The dig site is located at Tenochtitlan, the center of an Aztec civilization, in a part of what is now modern Mexico City.

The Mexica people lived there from approximately the 14th to the 16th centuries. When Spanish explorers arrived, they found the native people and their practices barbaric and knocked down many of their structures and covered over others.

THE GORY RITUAL THE AZTECS USED TO SACRIFICE HUMANS AT THEIR GREAT TEMPLE

Captives were first taken to the city’s Templo Mayor, or great temple.

In a typical ritual, sacrificial victims would be taken to the top of the temple where four priests would lay them down on a stone slab.

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.

The Aztec priest would grab the heart and tear it out, still beating.

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 bodies were then decapitated and priests removed the skin and muscle from the corpses’ heads.

Large holes were carved into the sides of the skulls, allowing them to be placed onto a large wooden pole.

They were then placed in Tenochtitlan’s tzompantli, an enormous rack of skulls built in front of the Templo Mayor, a pyramid with two temples on top.

After months or years in the sun and rain, the skulls would begin to fall to pieces, losing teeth and even jaws.

At this point, priests would remove it to be fashioned into a mask and placed in an offering, or use mortar to add it to two towers of skulls that flanked the rack.

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As the excavations have continued, the team has been finding clues regarding the makeup of the entire area, which is believed to have been a temple. They now believe that the skull tower has a twin nearby, but have yet to find it.

They plan to continue excavating and to further study the skulls and other artifacts to learn more about the culture of the people who lived there, including those who were sacrificed.

Now, archaeologists are beginning to study the skulls in detail, hoping to learn more about Mexican rituals and the postmortem treatment of the bodies of the sacrificed.

‘This is a world of information,’ said archaeologist Raùl Barrera Rodríguez, director of INAH’s Urban Archaeology Program and leader of the team that found the tzompantli, according to Science.

In two seasons of excavations, archaeologists collected 180 mostly complete skulls from the tower and thousands of skull fragments.

Cut marks confirm that they were ‘defleshed’ after death and the decapitation marks are ‘clean and uniform.’

Three quarters of the skulls analyzed belonged to men, mostly aged between 20 and 35. Some 20 percent belonged to women and the remaining 5 percent were children.

During related research, scientists discovered what brought about the fall of the Aztec Empire.

The Aztecs were wiped out by a horror disease that caused them to bleed from the eyes, mouth and nose, experts have revealed.

Scientists say as many as 15 million people – an estimated 80 per cent of population – were killed when an epidemic known as cocoliztli swept Mexico’s Aztec nation in 1545.

The word means “pestilence” in the Aztec Nahuatl language.

The scientists swept aside smallpox, measles, mumps, and influenza as likely suspects, fingering a typhoid-like “enteric fever” for which they found DNA evidence on the teeth of long-dead victims, reports news.com.au.

Ashild Vagene, of the University of Tuebingen in Germany, said: “The 1545-50 cocoliztli was one of many epidemics to affect Mexico after the arrival of Europeans, but was specifically the second of three epidemics that were most devastating and led to the largest number of human losses.

“The cause of this epidemic has been debated for over a century by historians and now we are able to provide direct evidence through the use of ancient DNA to contribute to a longstanding historical question.”

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Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
June 28th, 2018

 

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