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. For example, Bernal Díaz
's The Conquest of New Spain
includes eye-witness accounts of human sacrifices as well as descriptions of the remains of sacrificial victims. In addition, there are a number of second-hand accounts of human sacrifices written by Spanish friars
that relate the testimony of native eye-witnesses. The literary accounts have been supported by archeological research. Since the late 1970s, excavations of the offerings in the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
's Pyramid of the Moon
, and other archaeological sites, have provided physical evidence of human sacrifice among the Mesoamerican peoples.
A wide variety of explanations and interpretations of the Aztec practice of human sacrifice have been proposed by modern scholars.
- Religious theories have been proposed explaining the practice as the product of religious beliefs......