Maya Human Sacrifice ... Say it isn't so.

Warfare among the Maya was considerably different from modem combat where opposing forces attempt to annihilate their enemies entirely on the field of battle. First of all, the Maya world was divided into polities, or city-states, that would at times be at peace with each other or under different circumstances fight with each other. The aim of this rather limited warfare was to take prisoners. Low status captives generally wound up as slaves to their captor, but high-status captives were scheduled for ritual sacrifice. The deliberate taking of a human life was deemed necessary to sanctify certain ritual occasions, such as the ascendancy to the throne by a new ruler or the dedication of a new building. Naturally the capture of a rival ruler was highly prized, as the sacrifice of the unfortunate individual lent extra importance to the occasion. The usual method of such a sacrifice was decapitation in a public ceremony. Aside from decapitation, the favored method in Postclassic times was a trick acquired from the Mexican cultures to the north, the removal of the heart. Women and children were sacrificed just as often as men The intended victim was stripped and painted blue before being led to a courtyard or temple where the victim would be placed face-up over a convex altar-like stone also painted blue. The arms and legs of the victim were held by specially designated priests while a fourth, called the nacom, would penetrate the victim's chest with a flint knife just below the left breast. Reaching inside the chest cavity, the nacom would pull out the still beating heart and hand it to another priest, who would then smear the blood on that idol to which the sacrifice had been made. If the sacrifice had taken place on the top of a pyramid, the corpse would be thrown to the courtyard below where priests of lower rank would skin the victim except for the hands and feet. The skin would then be worn by the officiating priest who would solemnly dance among the spectators. If the victim had been an especially brave warrior his body might be butchered and eaten by the nobles and other spectators.

A bow and arrow was also used in human sacrifice. The victim was stripped, painted blue and bound to a stake. According to a sixteenth century .account, " The foul priest in vestments went up and wounded the victims in parts of shame, whether it was a man or woman, and drew blood and came down and anointed the face of the idol with it."

Dancers, all armed with bows and arrows " began one after another to shoot at his heart ... in this manner they made his whole chest ... like a hedgehog of arrows"

A recently discovered painting at Tikal shows a man who has been bound to a stake and disemboweled.

The famous Sacred Cenote (a natural well) located at Chichen-Itza was found to contain numerous skeletons of men, women and children who were sacrificial victims. Bishop de Landa, in the sixteenth century reported: "Into this well they have the custom of throwing Men alive as a sacrifice to the gods in times of drought, and they believed they did not die though they never saw them."

As bad as all this sounds the Maya were amateurs when it came to human sacrifice on a massive scale. The Aztecs of Central. Mexico, many years later, once sacrificed twenty thousand people in a single ceremony to commemorate the dedication of a new temple. Then they ate them.

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