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Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism


New research suggests Spanish conquistadors butchered at least a dozen women and their children in an Aztec-allied town where the inhabitants sacrificed and ate a detachment of Spaniards they had captured months earlier.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
Human bones were found in shallow wells where they had been hidden by the locals
[Credit: Meliton Tapia/INAH]

The National Institute of Anthropology and History published findings Monday from years of excavation work at the town of Tecoaque, which means “the place where they ate them” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.




Residents of Tecoaque, also known as Zultepec, captured a convoy of about 15 male Spaniards, 50 women and 10 children, 45 foot soldiers who included Cubans of African and Indigenous descent, and about 350 allies from Indigenous groups in 1520. All were apparently sacrificed over the space of months.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
Remains of the European victims of sacrifice [Credit: Proyecto Zultepec Tecoaque]

When he heard about it, conquistador Hernan Cortes ordered Gonzalo de Sandoval to destroy the town in revenge in early 1521.


Archaeologist Enrique Martinez Vargas said excavations suggest the inhabitants of Tecoaque knew a reprisal attack was coming and tossed the bones of the Spaniards — some of which had been carved into trophies — and other evidence into shallow wells.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
The skeletons of sacrificed Spaniards are displyed inside a glass case at the museum of the Zultepec-
Tecoaque archeological site in Tlaxcala state, Mexico. The National Institute of Anthropology
and History published findings Monday, January 18, 2021, suggesting that Spanish
conquistadors butchered at least a dozen women and their children in an Aztec-allied
town where the inhabitants sacrificed and ate a detachment of Spaniards they
had captured months earlier [Credit: Rebecca Blackwell, AP]

The townspeople also tried to erect some primitive defensive works along the main thoroughfare of the town, none of which worked when De Sandoval and his punitive expedition rode in.


“Some of the warriors who had stayed in the town managed to flee, but women and children remained, and they were the main victims,” the institute said in a statement. “This we have been able to demonstrate over a 120-meter (yard) stretch of the main thoroughfare, where the skeletons of a dozen women were found who appeared to be ‘protecting’ the bones of ten children between the ages of five and six.”


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
The temples were also burned and the sculptures of gods were beheaded
[Credit: Meliton Tapia/INAH]

Photos of the excavations show children’s bones beside those of the adult females, with some of the women’s skulls or arm bones turned toward the youngsters.




“The placement of the burials suggest these people were fleeing, were massacred and buried hurriedly,” the institute said. “Women and children who were sheltering inside rooms were mutilated, as evidenced by the discovery of hacked bones on the floors. The temples were burned and the statues were decapitated.”


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
Destruction and burning of pre-Hispanic deities
[Credit: Meliton Tapia/INAH]

Cruelty was on display on both side in Tecoaque, the site of one of the worst defeats in the Spanish Conquest of 1519-21.


The heads of the captive Spanish women were strung up on skull racks alongside those of men. An analysis of the bones revealed the women were pregnant, and in pre-Hispanic practice that may have qualified them as “warriors.” Another sacrificial offering included one woman’s body that was cut in half near the remains of a dismembered child aged 3 or 4.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
The women and children who were kept safe in their rooms, were in turn mutilated,
as evidenced by the recovered bones [Credit: Proyecto Zultepec Tecoaque]

One Spanish male was dismembered and burned to replicate the mythical fates of Aztec-era gods, according to one myth known as “El Quinto Sol,” or Fifth Sun.


The convoy was comprised of people sent from Cuba in a second expedition a year after Cortes’ initial landing in 1519 and they were heading to the Aztec capital with supplies and the conquerors’ possessions. Cortes had been forced to leave the convoy on its own while trying to rescue his troops from an uprising in what is now Mexico City.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
The skull of a Spaniard, bottom left, a child, center, and a person of African heritage sit alongside
 models of what a Spanish conquistador and a person of mixed Amerindian and African descent
may have looked like, at the Zultepec-Tecoaque archaeological site in Tlaxcala state, Mexico
[Credit: Rebecca Blackwell/AP]

Members of the captured convoy were held prisoner in door-less cells, where they were fed over six months, the experts said. Little by little, the town sacrificed and apparently ate the horses, men and women. But pigs brought by the Spaniards for food were apparently viewed with such suspicion that they were killed whole and left uneaten.




In contrast, the skeletons of the captured Europeans were torn apart and bore cut marks indicating the meat was removed from the bones.


Spanish conquistadors massacred women, children in Aztec town as reprisal for sacrifices, cannibalism
The town where the killings took place is called Tecoaque, meaning
“the place where they ate them” [Credit: Meliton Tapia/INAH]

Cortes went on to conquer the Aztec capital later in 1521.


Mexico is marking the 500th anniversary of the conquest this year with a special round of research and scholarly conferences.


Source: Associated Press [January 31, 2021]



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1 comment :

  1. So, the aboriginals "sacrificed" 470 people (including 50 women and 10 children), but the "Spanish conquistadors" (are we certain it was not their Mexican allies?) "butchered" 22 women and children. The reprisal was pretty mild, but the bias is quite outstanding.

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