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150 unearthed Mexican skulls point to largest human sacrifice in nation's history

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 29th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Archaeologists working at a site near Mexico City have unearthed 150 skulls with just one or two vertebrae attached, suggesting the heads were hacked off the victims. Some think this is the site of the largest mass human sacrifice of Mexico's ancient civilizations.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The remains have been dated between 600 and 850 A.D. Found in an area miles from the nearest large city, researchers say the discovery could challenge existing notions about the area's ancient culture.

"It's absolutely remarkable to think about this little nothing on the landscape having potentially evidence of the largest mass human sacrifice in ancient Meso-America," Christopher Morehart of Georgia State University says.

Morehart, an archaeologist at Georgia's anthropology department stumbled across the site while using Google Earth to investigate ancient waterworks surrounding the ancient kingdom of Teotihuacan. Scene of the famous Pyramid of the Sun, flourished from 200 to 650 A.D. but, to date, the civilization that built it remains unknown.

It was in the now-drained Lake Xaltocan, which was at the time surrounded by nothing more than rural farmland. Closer investigation revealed the skulls, in addition to a shrine with water-deity statues, incense burners and agricultural pottery which researchers said suggested a ritual purpose tied to farming.

Morehart said that the carbon dating of the skulls suggested they were at least 1,100 years old. Most were from men. The discovery called to mind the 50 decapitated skulls and 250 jaw bones beneath Mexico City reported in October last year.

While the provenance of that burial site was quickly ascertained, there is no clue as to how assembled the Lake Xaltocan cache of skulls.

Destiny Crider, an archaeologist with Luther College in Iowa who was not part of the research team said that the findings could lead to a revision of regional historical accounts. The site is not associated with Teotihuacan or other regional powers and its location is unlike the great pyramids within cities where such sacrifices usually took place.

She also suggested that the shrine and the fact that most of the victims were male suggest they were carefully chosen, and not simply the result of indiscriminate slaughter of locals.

Many researchers believe the kingdom of Teotihuacan fell due to drought, and there followed a period of warfare as smaller regional powers competed for supremacy.

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