Re: human sacrifice

Len Piotrowski (
Tue, 24 Sep 1996 18:50:26 GMT

In article <528dav$3bl@oravannahka.Helsinki.FI> (Kristoffer Lindqvist) writes:

> 1) The sacrifices might have served as population regulators;
>since the sacrifices were a culturally accepted way of killing people
>it could have been a convinient way of disposing unwanted people (like
>people useless for the society (why feed them ?) and people perceived as
>dangerous). I understand that the Aztecs also sacrificed prisoners, this
>way they didn€t require guarding or food. If this would be the case the
>sacrifices might have played quite a significant role in preserving

The "sacrifices" were of external populations, which would not suggest to me a
population regulatory function (the Aztec population remained essentially
unaffected in terms of relative birth and death rates), but rather a metaphor
more like genocide and extermination. The overriding reason for obtaining
prisoners was for sacrifice, so the need to house, guard, and feed them was
temporary and easily circumvented if it was a limiting factor on the economy.
The victims, unlike your characterization as unwanted and useless, were
integrated members of thriving societies run over by an expansionist political
and predatory Aztec culture.

> 2) The sacrifices could theoretically aid the political
>stability. Firstly by feeding the ruling elites when crops were scarce

More likely, by providing access to land and wealth to "elites" as the
spoils of war.

>and secondly by, as Keesing points out, strenghtening the warfare moral
>(success in war was a way to rise to noble status, thus escaping the
>possibility of being served for lunch !).

I doubt there is any evidence for starvation in the Aztec heartland, let alone
of warrior specialists or political elites. Warfare and genocide may have
served some economic and political functions for the Aztec, but it had nothing
to do with the caloric value of it's victims. Why butcher you're entire "feed
herd" at once and save just their hearts? I think your answer lies in the
meaning of all those hearts provided at the time of their "sacrifice:" total
dedication to the maintenance of a way-of-life in the face of insurmountable
challenges to it's continuing efficacy.



"If you can't remember what mnemonic means, you've got a problem."
- perlstyle