Re: Anthropophagy
Fri, 6 Jan 95 06:06:50 GMT

In Article <>>
(Gerold Firl) writes:
>In article <3e9m0n$> writes:
>>Ortiz de Montellano dismisses the notion that
>>ritual cannibalism was undertaken as a protein supplement on the grounds that
>>it was insufficent in quantity and quality when compared to the diets available
>>to urban residents of Tenochtitlan. [stuff deleted]
>As I stated earlier, cannibalism may not have been *necessary*, from a
>nutritional standpoint, but in no way does that preclude it from being a
>part of the aztec lifestyle.

I agree. Ortiz de Montellano's analysis is directed at the
functionalist arguments of Harner (1977) and Harris (1978),
that it was motivated by protien defficency. He notes that the sacrifices and
accompanying cannibalism occured at times of resource abundance, rather than
resource scarcity supporting the traditional idea that it was undertaken as
thanksgiving offerings in a purely ritual context.

>Unfortunately my copy of _plagues and peoples_
>is loaned-out right now, so I can't check it for the dimly remembered
>reference to cannibalism. As I recall, McNeil states that after the bodies
>were rolled down the pyramid, they were carted away and butchered.

I'm curious to the references cited in plague and peoples, do they include
Sahagun's observations of Aztec culture at the time of Columbian conquest?
Montellano's work is based on a thorough reading and translation of many of
these early conquest era narratives, and empirical evaluation of the basis
for arguments such as Harner and Harris have offered.

>The aztecs may have eaten people not because they *had* to, but because they
> *wanted* to. The aztec empire was built on
>conquest. The aztec religion was built on human sacrifice.

Eating people out of necessity, and for ritual purposes are two
different things. A couple of questions to consider, who got to eat the
victims? In otherwords, was this a privilege of a particular class of
people or shared by the entire population. Also, what parts were eaten?
Given the ritual nature of the event, it is likely that only certain organs
or parts were consumed. I don't have the answers to these questions, but
perhaps someone who has studied this for prelims or dissertation research will

>If the sacrificial victims weren't eaten, what was done with their bodies?
>Were they buried? Burned? Carted out of the city, over the causeways, or
>dumped into the lake? Were they composted first?
Good questions. Seems like there should be an archaeological record of
large scale activities like this. Of course it could have been excavated and
discarded in the Antiquitarian era of concern with monumental architecture
and beautiful things.

>But do we have to speculate? Are records of aztec cannibalism reliable, or
>are they dismissed as spanish propaganda?

Perhaps we can have the input from a Mesoamericanist on this.

* Charles T. Faulkner * When you don't know where you're
* Univ of Tennessee, Knoxville * going any road will take you there.
* ( * Alice