Topics: Mesoamerica, Human sacrifice, Maya civilization Pages: 7 (1498 words) Published: September 15, 2014

Mayan and Aztec Sacrifice

There were two societies in the beginning part of the history of Mexico that practiced human sacrifices. Those two societies were the Maya and Aztec cultures. The Mayans practiced human sacrifices during ritual specific times and was performed a couple of different ways including adopting one practice from the North. Human sacrifice was a very important religious practice and if neglected they believed cosmic disorder and chaos would ensue. The Aztecs on the other hand would practice human sacrifice on a massive scale compared to the Maya. These human sacrifices were also an important religious practice because Aztecs believed they owed a blood-debt to the Gods.

The Mayan empire covered much of the Yucatan peninsula and was divided into several city-states. For the most part the city-states were at peace with each other and had several roads and trade routes established between them. The main purpose for warfare was to capture prisoners to become slaves and for ritual sacrifices. Far to the north, the Aztecs would become famous for holding their victims down on top of temples and cutting out their hearts, offering the still-beating organs to their gods. The Maya did cut the hearts out of their victims, as can be seen in certain images surviving at the Piedras Negras historical site. However, it was much more common for them to decapitate or disembowel their sacrificial victims, or else tie them up and push them down the stone stairs of their temples. The methods had much to do with who was being sacrificed and for what purpose. Prisoners of war were usually disemboweled. When the sacrifice was religiously linked to the ball game, the prisoners were more likely to be decapitated or pushed down the stairs. (Ancient Maya)

Also if Mayan human sacrifices mainly had their head decapitated, it was most likely when the heart was cut out of the chest the head would be cut off too. Many leaders of city-states would compete in the ball game and was used in many of the ritual sacrifices. It was usually a continuation of a battle or capture of a rival king. For the Maya, human sacrifices were associated with the ball game. The ball game, in which a hard rubber ball was knocked around by players mostly using their hips, often had religious, symbolic or spiritual meaning. Maya images show a clear connection between the ball and decapitated heads: the balls were even sometimes made from skulls. Sometimes, a ballgame would be a sort of continuation of a victorious battle: captive warriors from the vanquished tribe or city-state would be forced to play and then sacrificed afterwards. A famous image carved in stone at Chichén Itzá shows a victorious ballplayer holding aloft the decapitated head of the opposing team leader. (Ancient Maya) These sacrifices were not a mindless act to the Mayans they saw it as necessary religious practices to keep the cosmic in order. The taking of life was needed for special occasions, such as the rise of a new king or devotion of a new building. Great pyramids were built for sacrifices and the nacom, high priest, would cut the heart out and hand it to a priest, who would spread the blood from the heart onto the idol of the God they made the sacrifice for. The body would then be thrown down the stairs to a lower ranked priest, who would then skin the body except the hands and feet. The priest would wear the skin and dance in front of all the spectators. Not all the sacrifices were men some of them were women and children. Also they believed the ones sacrificed went to Heaven and were spared from the underworld, which is where everyone else went even the rulers. The rulers and nobles would also practice bloodletting, which is they sacrifice some of their own blood, by stabbing the penis, ear, lip, or tongue with most likely a stingray spine. More blood was expected from someone with a higher position because they are semi-divine and the mediators...
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