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A Study of the Role of Cannibalism in Aztec Culture

Author(s): Courtney Astrom ; Olivia Navarro-Farr

Year: 2015

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It is generally agreed upon that the Aztec practiced cannibalism, but scholars have proposed various hypotheses explaining what function this practice had in the Aztec culture. This study focuses on the nature and ritualistic function of Aztec cannibalism. The Aztec would only consume the flesh of outsiders, mostly war captives, as part of religious rituals which provided a foundation for their culture. A detailed examination of the ethnohistoric and archaeological evidence for cannibalism among the Aztec considers the work of Bernadino de Sahagún and other contemporary authors, compares it to the archaeological record, and evaluates some of the theories that have been provided by scholars in light of these data. The views of Marvin Harris, Michael Harner, and others are evaluated. The social unity provided by public ceremonies may provide a better explanation for cannibalism than does the argument for nutritional needs.

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A Study of the Role of Cannibalism in Aztec Culture. Courtney Astrom, Olivia Navarro-Farr. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397594)


Aztec Cannibalism

Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 12.383 ; max long: -86.353; max lat: 23.08 ;

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America