The Myth of the Willing Human Sacrificial Victim in Ancient Messoamerica: Transformation of the Symbolic Complex of Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Oaxaca and Teotihuacan
Author(s): Linda Hansen
Past scholarship concerning human sacrifice in ancient Mesoamerica has suffered from oversimplification and misuse of traditional theoretical models of sacrifice. In addition, many scholars are still suffering a hangover from a twentieth century Western scholarly binge that romanticized notions of an iconic, peaceful Maya civilization (a type for all Mesoamerica) with exceptional interactions with nature. As a result, pan-Mesoamerican cosmological principles are still endorsed as the ubiquitous causal force behind all ritual sacrificial symbolic systems and practices. This theoretical miscarriage involves several shortcomings: 1) It disregards the multifaceted and shifting nature of ritual activity and varied expressions at different levels of social strata, 2) it solemnizes the participants in the sacrificial act, the sacrificer and the sacrificial victim, as equal participants in a communal operation of reciprocity with the gods, and 3) it ignores the issues of power relations. In this paper, I will exhibit a more complex arena of sacrificial rites and reveal dialectical ideological constructions of sacrifice on different echelons of society in both ancient Oaxaca and Teotihuacan. In both case studies, increased urbanization and social complexity introduced new symbolic complexes which included human sacrifice increasingly aligned with warfare, domination of foreigners, and unwilling sacrificial victims.
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The Myth of the Willing Human Sacrificial Victim in Ancient Messoamerica: Transformation of the Symbolic Complex of Ritual Sacrifice in Ancient Oaxaca and Teotihuacan. Linda Hansen. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 402889)
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