The Aztec Culture of Sacrifice

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Introduction The concept of sacrifice is a fundamental basis of almost every religion. However, its manifestation in the form of human sacrifice is both more controversial and, as a result, rarely studied by anthropologists today. As one scholar observes: "The modern social anthropologist does not best endear himself to the elite of the Third World by an obsessive interest in how great-grandfather shrunk the heads he hunted or in the quality of the wood needed to burn great-grandmother alive" (Davies, 1981, p.13).
While one may question the sense of humour evident here - and even its implication of a racist subtext - it must be acknowledged that the role of human sacrifice in the history of religious practices is seldom addressed.
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86)? In order to interrogate these two theories of ritual sacrifice, the practice of human sacrifice must be examined in a situation and on a scale where there can be no doubt of its significance within a culture. In this regard, no better example of human sacrifice as a culture-wide religious practice may be found than the case of the Aztec civilization.

Human Sacrifice (b) - Practice The Aztecs, it is believed, originated as a poor nomadic tribe from a place in western Mexico they called "Aztlan" sometime in the 1300s. They probably never used the term "Aztec" in reference to themselves, and were commonly known as "Mexica". They moved into the Valley of Mexico as squatters, and began making enemies of the more civilized peoples already living there as a result of the Aztec taste for violence and human sacrifice (Coe, 1984, p.145-6). The Aztecs were, in the words of one historian, "despised by all" (Weaver, 1972, p.239) neighbouring peoples for their placing physical violence and bloodlust at the centre of their culture. For example, while their skill in fighting led to their being employed as mercenaries, on one infamous occasion their chief was offered the daughter of the King who currently employed the tribe. When the King arrived for the marriage ceremony, "he was confronted instead by a priest dancing about in his daughter's skin" (Weaver, 1972,
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