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God of Death Shrine

God of Death Shrine Unearthed in Mexico

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In a discovery that would send shivers up your spine, archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History have discovered the first ever shrine dedicated to Mictlantecuhtli, the god of death, along with remains of human sacrifice victims.

The National Institute have called the discovery the ‘Temple of Skulls’ because on the west and north walls, they found two niches containing human skulls and four femurs in each one.  On top of the temple, dated to the 14 th century, they found two ceramic heads and an effigy of the god of the dead. They also found more than 300 fragments of skeletal remains, indicating that human sacrifices were performed on top of the temple.

In Aztec mythology, Mictlantecuhtli was known as the ruler over Mictlan, the lowest underworld, the northern realm of the dead.  He was one of the principal gods of the Aztecs and was the most prominent of several gods and goddesses of death and the underworld. The worship of Mictlantecuhtli sometimes involved ritual cannibalism, with human flesh being consumed in and around the temple.

Mictlantecuhtli was typically depicted as a blood-spattered skeleton or a person wearing a toothy skull. Although his head was typically a skull, his eye sockets did contain eyeballs. His headdress was shown decorated with owl feathers and paper banners, and he wore a necklace of human eyeballs, while his ear spools were made from human bones.  His arms were frequently depicted raised in an aggressive gesture, showing that he was ready to tear apart the dead as they entered his presence. All in all, he would have been a terrifying sight.

The shrine was located about 20 meters south of the Temple of the archaeological site of Tehuacan, Puebla. To date, only 10 percent of the estimated 116 acre site has been excavated so who knows what else may be uncovered.

The area was known to have been inhabited by the Popolocas people, Middle American Indians of southern Puebla state in central Mexico (not to be confused with the Popoluca of southern Mexico).  It is hoped that the fourteenth century shrine will contribute to more widespread knowledge about the Popoloca people who built it.

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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