There are many things about the Ancient Mayans that are still a mystery to this day, but one thing we do know is that they actively participated in human sacrifice. Let’s take a deeper look and see if we can learn anything about this ancient brutal practice.
At its peak, the Mayan Civilization was huge, covering a large area of land which included southeastern Mexico and northern Central America. They believed in sacrificing live creatures to the gods in order to receive nourishment by means of the sun, rain, and good crops.
While animals were often sacrificed, the Mayans saw human sacrifice as the ultimate one. In fact, for some, it was considered an honour to be sacrificed. It is a misconception that everyone that was imprisoned by the Mayans was sacrificed. The truth is that only high-profile prisoners were sacrificed, while the rest were used for labour.
The most popular and most famous method for sacrifice was heart removal. The person who was to be sacrificed was painted blue, given a headdress, and held down while his heart was cut out with a sacrificial knife. The heart was passed on to a priest, who would smear the blood onto a painting of a god.
The body was then thrown down the steps of the pyramid. Once it reached the bottom, it was skinned by assistant priests. That’s not even the most messed up part…
The head priest, or the Chilan, would wear the skin of the sacrificed in order to perform a ritualistic dance of rebirth.
Some less important sacrifices were performed in a less extravagant, but equally as terrifying way. People were either beheaded or simply tied up and thrown down the massive steps of the Mayan pyramids.
Whether the sacrifice was a large and extravagant show or a smaller but equally ‘necessary’ event, the people of Ancient Maya celebrated these events. They truly believed that with each sacrifice came more goodwill to their people.
The Ball Game
Known as “Pitz”, this ancient ball game involved a hard rubber ball being knocked around without the use of hands through a stone ring. Imagine hacky sack and basketball combined into one… but the leader of the team who lost was decapitated.
The photo above is a court that was once used for this game, which always saw someone sacrificed after a match. It was common to have prisoners of war forced to play the game.
Politics also played a part in human sacrifice in Ancient Maya. Captive kings and rulers of rival city-states were considered to be high-prize sacrifices.
Quickly after the Mayans reached their peak, they mysteriously started to disappear. We still don’t fully understand how or why the civilization fell. Alright, that was all pretty morbid so here’s a cute GIF to hopefully cleanse your soul.