News & Opinion | June 28, 2018 10:55 am

Archaeologists Uncover a New, Grisly Scale of Aztec “Skull Tower”

Though 650 skulls have been found, scientists estimate thousands were in Tenochtitlan temple.

aztec
Huey Tzompantli (rpphotos/Flickr)

Archaeologists have revealed that Aztec human sacrifices were far more widespread and grisly than originally thought. Scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found 650 skulls in 2015, near the site of the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, which later became Mexico City. But now, archaeologists say that those skulls were just a small part of a massive display of thousands of skulls known as Huey Tzompantli that had a base the size of a basketball court. The research is still uncovering the vast scale of the human sacrifices, performed to honor the gods.

According to the new research, published in Science, captives were first taken to the city’s Templo Mayor, where priests removed their hearts. The bodies were then decapitated. Archaeologists think that the skulls were seen by the Aztecs as the “seeds that would ensure the continued existence of humanity.”