Human Bones - Aztecs ritual cannibalism

Human bones show evidence that Aztecs practiced ritual cannibalism

(Read the article on one page)

New research has revealed the Aztec rulers, priests, and high ranking warriors practiced cannibalism as a research rite. Evidence comes from fragments of human bones found in the Sacred Grounds of Tenochtitlan , Mexico, which show butchering marks and prolonged exposure to fire.

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec empire that flourished between 1325 and 1521 AD.  It was built on an island in Lake Texcoco in what is now central Mexico, and had a system of canals and causeways that supplied the hundreds of thousands of people who lived there. As Tenochtitlan expanded, it grew to become the largest and most powerful city in Mesoamerica.  The city was largely destroyed in the 1520s by Spanish conquistadors.

Archaeologist Gabino Lopez Arenas carried out an analysis on craniums, tibia, humerus and jaws located among the offerings of the Great Temple and in the surroundings of the historical centre.  The analysis revealed that the individuals had been decapitated and dismembered. It then appears that they were butchered and consumed “to absorb the divine force that held the body of the sacrificed,” said Arenas. “We observed that immediately after the victims were immolated their flesh was removed, this is confirmed because a great quantity of bones had cuts and alterations that were done while the bone was fresh and recently exposed to fire.”

According to Arenas, the Aztecs believed that the practice of cannibalism enabled one to take on the strength that remained in the victim’s body.  It was believed that humans were incarnations of the gods they represented and by eating flesh, they could share that divinity.

Historical records and archaeological evidence suggests that cannibalism was not practiced by commoners and was definitely not part of the regular Aztec diet. Rather, it was reserved for the elite of society and usually took place as part of specific ceremonies.  For example, during celebrations relating to the first month of the Mexica calendar (atlacahualo), several children were sacrificed to honour the gods of water or rain. They were then cannibalised by the priests.  Meanwhile, during the tlacaxipehualizli month, those sacrificed in the temple of the god Huitzilopochtli were devoured in the house of the warrior that captured them.

By April Holloway



Fortune and glory

I am always suspicious whenever I see accusations of cannibalism. All "evidence" we have is tainted by the Spanish abuses of Indians and projecting their own dark, distorted religion onto the people they wanted to conquer.

Zuell's picture

The Aztec priests slaughtered people everyday, why wouldnt they eat them?


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The Sayhuite Monolith
Long ago, forgotten artists put their blood, sweat, and possibly even tears into creating more than 200 designs on a monolith in what is now Peru. They carefully engraved the forms of reptiles, felines, shellfish, and frogs and then surrounded the sacred animals with terraces, ponds, river, tunnels, and irrigation canals. The exact purpose and meaning behind these features remains a mystery.

Human Origins

Edgar Cayce (Credit: Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment, Author provided)
For nearly 30 years I have returned to the famous “Sleeping Prophet” Edgar Cayce’s readings as a road map to try and piece together the complex origins of civilization and the creation of Homo sapiens. Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) was an American Christian mystic born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky who answered questions on subjects as varied as healing, reincarnation, wars, Atlantis, and future events while in a trance state.

Ancient Technology

Detail of a star chart dating to the Middle Kingdom.
The calendar is one of mankind’s most important inventions. Calendars allowed societies to organize time for religious, social, economic, and administrative purposes. The calendar, or rather, two sets of calendars, were invented by the ancient Egyptians. One of these was a lunar calendar, which was used mainly for the organization of religious festivals.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article