ASU In the News

Ancient mass human sacrifice is unique, unexpected


Archaeologists in central Mexico have unearthed roughly 150 human skulls, indicating a mass human sacrifice at an unexpected scene. Christopher Morehart of Georgia State University, and his team, discovered the remains while looking at ancient agricultural patterns and human landscape uses in pasture land and corn fields that rest on a former lakebed.

The find appears to be a first on two counts. Download Full Image

The type of decapitation practiced on the victims, which represent a varied population, produced cuts closer to the base of the skull than the norm.

Also, the location of the burial is outside the ancient urban centers that practiced human sacrifice, like nearby Teotihuacan and, centuries later, the cities of the Aztecs. The skulls were found in a relatively obscure, modest interment.

The Washington Post reported on the find with an article that includes the perspective of Arizona State University Mesoamerican archaeologist Michael E. Smith.

Smith calls the find “impressive” and “puzzling” yet perhaps a sign of things to come. He notes that further excavation of ancient farm sites could yield evidence of similar mass burials or sacrifices.

“It certainly is unusual for being the first such feature excavated by archaeologists,” he says of the discovery, “but it is possible that such shrines were more common in ancient times; we simply have no idea.”

Smith, who is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is a specialist on the Aztecs of central Mexico.

Article Source: Washington Post
Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

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