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The Mexica Practice of Human Sacrifice for AP World History

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

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The Mexica practice of human sacrifice is an illustrative example in the Empires: Administration topic of Unit 3 of AP World History. Read more about the Mexica practice of human sacrifice below!



Ruins of Templo Mayor in Mexico City
Ruins of Templo Mayor in Mexico City 2288807251/Shutterstock


The Mexica, the indigenous people who established the Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica, are renowned for their complex cultural practices, one of the most controversial being the ritualistic practice of human sacrifice. Central to their religious beliefs and worldview, human sacrifice played a significant role in Mexica society, shaping both their spiritual understanding and political dynamics.


Human sacrifice in Mexica culture was intricately linked to their religious beliefs, particularly their dedication to the gods who, according to their cosmology, required nourishment and appeasement. The Mexica believed that by offering the vital life force of human beings, they could sustain the balance of the cosmos, ensuring the continuation of the world and guaranteeing prosperity for their people.


Human sacrifice was integrated into various religious ceremonies and festivals, with the most elaborate rituals occurring at the Templo Mayor in the heart of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. Captured warriors, often from rival city-states, were selected as sacrificial victims. These individuals were considered “xiuhpilli” or “precious turquoises,” symbolizing the value attributed to their sacrifice. Rituals involved elaborate preparations, processions, and the eventual presentation of the victim to the gods atop the sacrificial pyramid.


The practice of human sacrifice also held political significance, reinforcing the authority of the Mexica elite and instilling fear in neighboring regions. The public nature of these ceremonies served as a demonstration of the rulers’ ability to maintain cosmic order and protect their people. Additionally, the Mexica believed that sacrificing captives in warfare honored the gods and contributed to the ongoing success of their military endeavors.


The Mexica practice of human sacrifice has been a subject of controversy and diverse interpretations. While some scholars argue that it was a central aspect of their religious worldview, others suggest that the scale of human sacrifice may have been exaggerated by Spanish chroniclers. The motivations behind the Mexica’s ritualistic practices continue to be a topic of debate, with some viewing it as a complex religious tradition and others as a form of political control.



Free Printable Reading Passage on the Mexica Practice of Human Sacrifice


Mexica Practice of Human Sacrifice Free Reading Passage



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Empires: Administration

Unit 3: Land-Based Empires

AP World History



Mexica human sacrifice

#APWorldHistory #AztecEmpire #Mexica

Cate O'Donnell

2 min read

Jan 2

0

0

0

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