An Aztec tower of human skulls discovered in Mexico City

Hundreds of human skulls dating from the Atzec empire have just been discovered in Mexico City. Including women and children. CREDITS: JESSICA ESPINOSA
Hundreds of human skulls dating from the Atzec empire have just been discovered in Mexico City. Including women and children. CREDITS: JESSICA ESPINOSA

The discovery of a structure composed of human skulls in Mexico City, once the capital of the Aztec empire, reveals the existence of victims hitherto unsuspected by researchers: women and children.

In the basement of Mexico City , the current Mexican capital, the ancient Tenochtitlan of the Aztecs, stands a sinister tower made up of human skulls. Discovered in 2015, it reveals little by little its terrible secrets to archaeologists. Thus among the 675 skulls of sacrificial men exhumed patiently for a year and a half, anthropologists were astounded to identify women and children, where they thought they would find only those of warriors! „A real surprise,“ Raul Barrera, a researcher at the National Institute of History and Anthropology of Mexico (INAH), responsible for the excavations, told The Guardian.

The frightening architecture, about 6 meters in diameter, was located in the sacred precinct of Templo Mayor , the most important ceremonial center of the Aztecs, not far from the sanctuary dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun. The tower would have been part of the terrifying Huey Tzompantli , a „skull rack“ described in historical chronicles. This huge collection, which had horrified the Spaniards to their arrival in Tenochtitlan, was mentioned by Andres Tapia, a companion of Hernan Cortes, who had participated in the conquest of Mexico in 1521. „[…] towers made of lime and heads of the dead, without any other stone, and the teeth to the outside as far as one could see […] „, Had described the conquistador. The Spaniards were terrified by the violence of the human sacrifices that were practiced in the Aztec civilization, understood as “ the killing of human beings in the context of a communication with the superhuman „, which was explained in his work * Michel Graulich (1944-2015), one of the best specialists in the religions of Mesoamerica.

These macabre findings today raise new questions about ritual ceremonies and the selection of victims. Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), a Spanish Franciscan missionary, famous for his pioneering work on Aztec ethnology, already reported in his General History of the Things of New Spain that during certain festivals all captives were sacrificed, Prisoners of war. Both men and women and children. The wars ( yaoyotl ) were then incessant to subdue the cities, with tribute the delivery of victims to sacrifice.

Still ongoing, the work of archaeologists should deliver a greater number of skulls. The base of the site has not yet been reached.