Skulls of over 150 women who were ritually decapitated over 1000 years ago have been found in Mexico. Experts believe ritual human sacrifices targeted poor individuals in earlier civilizations.
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When Mexican authorities discovered a mound of roughly 150 skulls in a cave near the Guatemalan border, they took the bones for a crime scene and sent them to the state capital.
It turned out to be a cold case.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History said Wednesday that it required a decade of testing and analysis to identify the skulls were from sacrifice victims slaughtered between A.D. 900 and 1200.
“Believing they were looking at a crime scene, investigators collected the bones and started examining them in Tuxtla Gutierrez,” the state capital’s INAH reported in a statement.
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The police were not being foolish in 2012; the border area surrounding Frontera Comalapa in southern Chiapas state has long been rife with violence and immigrant trafficking. Pre-Hispanic skull heaps in Mexico, on the other hand, frequently have a hole drilled through each side of every skull and are typically found in ritualistic plazas rather than caves.
Experts indicated Wednesday that the corpses in the cave were most likely ritually decapitated and their skulls displayed on a type of trophy rack known as a “tzompantli.” In the 1520s, Spanish conquistadors reported seeing such racks, and several Spaniards’ heads ended up on them.
Experts believe the cave skulls may have sat atop poles rather than being strung on them, as is the standard trend among the Aztecs and other societies.
Surprisingly, there were more female victims than males, and none of them seemed to have any teeth.
In light of the cave experience, archaeologist Javier Montes de Paz suggests that individuals contact archaeologists rather than authorities.
“When people find something that could be in an archaeological context, don’t touch it and notify local authorities or directly the INAH,” he warned.
Archaeologists discovered the main trophy rack of sacrificed human skulls in Mexico City’s Templo Mayor Aztec ruin site in 2015.
The same year, artifacts discovered at the Zultepec-Tecoaque ruin location provided evidence of hundreds of individuals being captured, sacrificed, and apparently devoured in a Spanish-led caravan.
According to a 2016 study, ritual human sacrifices targeted poor individuals in civilizations when social hierarchies were forming, assisting the powerful in controlling the lower classes and keeping them in their place.