Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have suggested that the high percentage of female remains in the “Hueyi Tzompantli” (large rack of skulls) is related to Huitzilopochtli’s origin myth.
“Hueyi Tzompantli” is a skull rack located at the ruins of Templo Mayor, in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (modern-day Mexico City, Mexico).
It was used to publicly display human skulls, usually prisoners of war or other sacred sacrifices, and was built in three stages during the reign of Tlatoani Ahuizotl, between 1486 and 1502 AD, writes Heritage Daily .
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Ahuizotl, meaning “Prickly Water”, was the eighth Aztec ruler, Huey Tlatoani from the city of Tenochtitlan. During his reign, Auitzotl oversaw the great rebuilding of Tenochtitlan and the expansion of the city of Templo in the year 8 of the Cane (1487 AD). Ahuizotl also conquered the Mixtecs, Zapotecs, and other peoples from the Pacific coast of Mexico to western Guatemala, more than doubling the territory under Aztec domination.
A new study by archaeologist Raul Barrera Rodriguez suggests that the high percentage of female remains in “Hueyi Tzompantli” is due to the myth of the confrontation between Coyolxauhi, the moon goddess, and Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec patron who was the patron saint of the Aztecs.
Research shows that the rack is made up of 655 human skulls, of which 60% are male, 38% are female, and 2% are infants. There are few references in historical sources to women warriors chosen for sacrifice, but a high percentage could be pregnant women who gave birth to a dead child, or women who were actually warriors.
Victims were laid on a sacrificial stone at the top of the Templo Mayor, a large stepped pyramid where priests cut a still-beating heart from a chest with a ceremonial obsidian knife.
The heart was considered the main symbol of human life and was presented to Huitzilopochtli. Then it was burned so that the life force of the victim would rise through the smoke in Huitzilopochtli, which gained new strength and continued to give light and warmth the next day in the fight against darkness.