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The Most Brutal Sacrifice in the Human History

The ruins of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan complex are a major tourist attraction in Mexico City. However, not many people visiting it know that the Pyramid was the site of a human sacrifice of unimaginable proportions.

In 1487, the sixth temple to top the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan was consecrated under Ahuizotl, the eighth Aztec emperor. In order to appease the gods, especially Tezcatlipoca, the god of war, Ahuizotl ordered the sacrifice of over 84,000 prisoners from surrounding cultures. They were all executed in only 4 days. That’s 21,000 per day, or 875 per hour, or about 14 per minute.

What makes these sacrifice most abhorable is that the prisoners were not killed humanely with a clean swish of a sword beheading them without their knowing it. Instead, first their hearts were carved out of their chests, and then they were decapitated. If you’ve seen the Mel Gibson film Apocalypto, you’ve seen an accurate depiction of this form of sacrifice.

By the time the farce was over, the spectators walked in blood up to their ankles. It ran like a thin red waterfall down the Pyramid’s steps and is said in the Aztecan literature to have reached all sides of the plaza’s stone pavement by the fourth day. The corpses, along with their hearts and heads, were sowed into the fields of a 6-mile radius as fertilizer for crops.


Human sacrifice was a religious practice characteristic of pre-Columbian Aztec civilization, as well as of other mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and the Zapotec. The extent of the practice is debated by modern scholars.

Spanish explorers, soldiers and clergy who had contact with the Aztecs between 1517, when an expedition from Cuba first explored the Yucatan, and 1521, when Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, made observations of and wrote reports about the practice of human sacrifice. 

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