A wall of skulls has shed light on Aztec culture at an archaeological site in Tenochtitlan, Mexico City, Mexico.
Strung together by a collection of now-deteriorated wooden poles, hundreds of skulls stretched the length of a modern-day basketball court and resembled a large boney abacus, researchers report.
According to a team of archaeologists uncovering the site, 2015’s spiraling tower of skulls was only the tip of the iceberg. This 35 meter-long “skull rack” was more than a stylish piece of Aztec design, but most likely an important part of the human sacrifice rituals regularized by the ancient civilization.
Scriptures from 14 and 16 century Spain, particularly that written by Friar Diego Duran, described the cranial display- which they called a Huey Tzompantli- and the holes broken on either side of the skull to facilitate the passing of a large beam said experts of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).
Additional evidence can be found in pictographs and drawings dating back to the 1500’s. According to the director of the Urban Archeology Program, Ruben Barrera, traces of the wooden and mortar used to stabilize the skulls can be found on both the “jaws and fragments of shattered skulls.”
"Many of the skulls we found had been removed and altered in the colonial era (when the destruction of Tenochtitlán, capital of the empire) occurred. So far 35 skulls have been found, but there must be dozens of them associated with this space," said Barrera, adding that the majority of victims seem to be young men, most likely enemy warriors.
Due to the composition of the mortar, though other similar tzompantli structures have been discovered in the past, experts believe this could be the main one. The limestone, sand and gravel mixture are unique to this structure and are unlike any tzompantli found so far.
Empowered with this recent discovery, archaeologists say they plan to continue their search through the ruins with hopes of stumbling on other Mesoamerican mementos.