Pyramids And The Bloodthirsty Aztec Culture

The Mayans and Aztecs did not routinely bury their kings in their pyramids, like the Egyptians, but there were exceptions… Instead their pyramids were used more for day to day religious ceremonies…We are trying to establish the mysterious links between the Egyptian, Mayan, Aztec and Inca pyramids, eerily similar structures, steeped in legend and shrouded in mystery, built thousands of miles away from Egypt…

The Mayan civilization declined for some as yet fully unknown reasons, believed to be mainly constant inter tribal warfare between varying factions, and they were succeeded by the Aztecs, who took human sacrifice to a whole new level….This was discovered, with some hypocritical revulsion, (considering the Spanish Inquisition was one of the world’s most infamously cruel religious movements) by the famous Spanish Conquistador Hernando Cortez, in his amazing defeat of the entire Aztec army, although he had the help of at least 100,000 other native Americans who chafed under the oppressive yoke of the Aztec rulers…

According to my Google sources:  “Despite the towering reputation of Egypt’s Great Pyramids at Giza, the Americas actually contain more pyramid structures than the rest of the planet combined. Civilizations like the Olmec, Maya, Aztec and Inca all built pyramids to house their deities, as well as to bury their kings. In many of their great city-states, temple-pyramids formed the center of public life and were the site of much holy ritual, including human sacrifice.

At one point, historians concluded that (in contrast with Egyptian pyramids), pre-Columbian pyramids were not intended as burial chambers but as homes for deities. However, more recent excavations have unearthed evidence that some pyramids did include tombs, and there is also evidence that city-states used the pyramids for military defense. The most famous single pyramid in Latin America is the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico….Its massive size rivals that of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza”….

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Again drawing heavily from my Google sources: “The Aztec pyramids date back to the 1400s, when the Aztec Empire, a multi-ethnic and multilingual kingdom that occupied what is now south-central Mexico, was heralded as the most powerful empire in the New World. The Aztec reign began sometime around 1428 and lasted until the Spanish, led by Hernando Cortez, conquered the civilization in 1521. During the nearly 100 years that the Aztecs ruled the land, they built many cities, and the central point of the cities was a temple sitting atop a pyramid, where all the major religious ceremonies and human sacrifices occurred.

According to Aztec writings and religious artwork found at archaeological sites, the Aztec pyramids were central to the civilization’s religion. The pyramids housed temples, and religious sacrifices were made in front of the temples. Human sacrifice was the most common type of sacrifice. The priests would sacrifice the victim by cutting out their heart, while they were still alive, and holding it high aloft, offering the human sacrifice to their gods, and then throwing the body down the steps of the pyramids, where thousands would gather to watch the ceremonial religious spectacles…

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How many people were sacrificed by the Aztecs? We don’t know how many were sacrificed over the years – it’s possible that some accounts are exaggerated – but it was probably thousands each year – tens of thousands or more all together. Some estimates claim 20,000 a year….The Aztecs had 18 months in one cycle, and for each of the 18 months there was ritual sacrifice. The victim would be painted as a part of the ritual, they would be placed on a slab where their heart would be removed and held up to the sun…

By the early 16th century, the Aztecs had come to rule over up to 500 small states, and some 5 to 6 million people, either by conquest or commerce. Tenochtitlan (the site of present day Mexico City) at its height had more than 140,000 inhabitants, and was the most densely populated city ever to exist in Mesoamerica. The Aztecs left many artifacts behind inside their pyramids over the years…

A turquoise mask dating from 1400-1521 is pictured at the 'Moctezuma Aztec Ruler' exhibition at the British museum in central London, on September 17, 2009. The exhibition will run from September 24, 2009 to January 24, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Shaun Curry (Photo credit should read SHAUN CURRY/AFP/Getty Images)aztec22calendar

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In November 1519, Cortez and his men arrived in Tenochtitlan, where Montezuma II and his people greeted them as honored guests according to Aztec custom (partially due to Cortez’ physical resemblance to the light-skinned Quetzalcoatl, whose return was prophesied in Aztec legend). Though the Aztecs had superior numbers, their weapons were inferior, and Cortez was able to immediately take Montezuma and his entourage of lords hostage, gaining control of Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards then murdered thousands of Aztec nobles during a ritual dance ceremony, and Montezuma died under uncertain circumstances while in custody.” The motive was the Spanish lust for gold and silver, which they looted in great quantities…

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“The Aztecs actually had a fairly good chance at beating the Spanish and the overall war was a fairly close one. It can be easily said that if not for the smallpox contracted from the Europeans that wiped out so many of them, especially their leaders, that it is extremely unlikely they would have fallen to the Spanish. The amount of harm caused by European diseases was tremendous, it is estimated that over twenty million Mexicans died in a period of just five years due to the diseases brought over by the Spanish.

Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan was considered to be the cosmic center of the Aztec world. In Aztec society there was a strong dichotomy between the nobles and the commoners. The nobles also exhibited a high degree of control over the commoners…The nobles considered themselves as “protectors of the peasants” and on a near god like level themselves…They would often dress as gods and partake in cannibalism…Sacrifice was an important part of the Aztec culture..
The ancient Aztecs evidently had an affinity for human skulls, so much so that they built a rack to contain them all. Archaeologists working in Mexico City found the main ceremonial skull rack at the Templo Mayor complex in Tenochtitlan Discovery reported. Such a display is called a “tzompantli” and was meant to hold the freshly severed heads of people chosen for human sacrifice.

According to Reuters, they displayed the heads of warriors from rival kingdoms, most likely sacrificed by priests atop their temples. The victims were mostly young men, but archaeologists also spotted women and children. Such racks were built to inspire awe and fear; the Aztec often invited both friends and enemies in equal measure to their city in order to look upon the tzompantli. The Aztec skull rack was built between 1485 and 1502 and measured 112 feet long and 40 feet tall. The heads were displayed by pushing wooden poles through the heads, and then the poles displayed horizontally, between vertical posts….

Aztec Tzompantli Altar With Skulls --- Image by © Gianni Dagli Orti/Corbisaztec34last

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How many people were sacrificed by the Aztecs? We don’t know how many were sacrificed over the years – it’s possible that some accounts are exaggerated – but it was probably thousands each year – tens of thousands or more all together. Some estimates claim 20,000 a year.

The Aztecs had 18 months in one cycle, and for each of the 18 months there was ritual sacrifice. The victim would be painted as a part of the ritual, they would be placed on a slab where their heart would be removed and held up to the sun. The body would be thrown down the stairs of the temple/pyramid.”

The Aztec penchant for cruelty and their iron fisted policy of government eventually led to their downfall…When Cortez and his small band of Spanish conquistadors arrived, they had few problems recruiting local natives to help them overthrow the haughty, cruel overlords of the hated Aztec Empire…

The use of horses, armor and steel swords, lances and firearms, none of which they had ever witnessed, could not be matched by the obsidian weapons of the Aztecs, and was an obvious advantage in Cortez’ victory…But as mentioned above, the decimation of the indigenous population through European diseases like smallpox and the alliance with other local tribes ultimately sealed the fate of the Aztecs….They reaped fear, death and destruction because that was their way of life…“What goes around comes around” was apparently just as true back then too….

Tomorrow we will explore one of the last of the great American cultures that used pyramids as central religious edifices and cultural centerpieces in their daily lives, the contemporaries of the Aztecs, the Incas in Peru….

For more articles by John Whye, click on johnwhye@wordpress.com

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