The Aztec Empire: Human Sacrifice

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While other cultures practiced human sacrifice, the Aztec empire is the most well-known and most aggressive group known to have practiced human sacrifice. The Aztecs were a Mesoamerican tribe that lived in the thirteenth century. The Aztec empire only existed for a short time, but left a significant impact, especially in regards to human sacrifices (Tuerenhout 7). The gruesome ritual of human sacrifice has been held as a special religious practice for the Aztecs. The creation stories of the Aztec world relate to their belief of the need to sacrifice to the gods through human blood. Over the years many anthropologists have examined this religious ritual in search of understanding why the Aztec’s had such a high number of sacrifices and the related …show more content…
He suggested that the Aztec human sacrifices were needed to provide the protein needed by the Aztecs to survive. This is disproven because the Aztecs received protein from processed maize and beans. Although the Aztecs did not eat a lot of meat, they still received an adequate amount of protein. Another piece of evidence against this theory is that the Aztecs only ate the flesh of the arms and legs. If they had truly been in need of protein, we would expect them to have eaten other parts, too (Tuerenhout 265). A widely accepted theory recognized by anthropologists is political reasons. Aztecs believed that religion and politics were very much interconnected. The Aztec kings ruled when appointed by the gods, and temples belonged to the state. Human sacrifices were a political service that produced propaganda to the other kingdoms. The sacrifices displayed the incredible power of the gods and of the Aztec empire. When a new king was appointed, and a king from another Mesoamerican tribe attended, they had to also watch the sacrifice of their own captive. This action proved the power of the Aztec empire to the enemy kingdoms, allies, and even their own people. In regards to the subjects of the Aztec empire, the particularly gruesome human sacrifices would have helped to prevent resistance and would ensure the commoners paid tribute to the nobility (Smith 219-220). Some anthropologists also believe that human sacrifices were completed to help with population control. This is especially true because they would have wanted to control the population of the surrounding kingdoms where they captured many of their sacrifices (Berdan 89). Overall, anthropologists believe that the Aztecs’ reasons for human sacrifice are their worldview or religious fulfillments and for political reasons. These two theories go hand in hand to demonstrate the power possessed by the Aztec empire and their

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