For the Xiximes, the planting-and-sowing cycle was intertwined with a cycle of cannibalism and bone rituals. After each corn harvest, Xiximes warriors were deployed to hunt for enemies—and their flesh.
Most of the time the Xiximes would prey on lone men from other villages working in the fields. Other times, the Xiximes would engage small groups in forest battles, according to the historical record.
The warriors would bring the dead victims back to the village, where Xiximes would rip the bodies apart at the joints, taking care not to break the bones. In cases when carrying a whole body was impractical, the head and hands would be removed and brought back to the village.
Body parts were cooked in pans until the bones emerged clean. The flesh was then cooked with beans and corn and eaten in a type of soup—part of an all-night village ritual, complete with singing and dancing, according to missionaries' reports.
After the feast, the bones were stored for months in treasure houses. Then, in the run-up to the annual planting season, the Xiximes would hang the bones from roofs and trees—enticements to the spirits to help the crops along.
"For these practices," Punzo said, "they were called by Jesuits the wildest and most barbarian people of the New World."
Monday, October 3, 2011
Cannibalism in Colonial Mexico
Mexican archaeologists working at a remote site in the mountains called Cueva del Maguey have uncovered good evidence of cannibalism: about 50 scraped and boiled human bones from a deposit dated to around 1425 AD. Jesuit missionaries of the 16th and 17th centuries described cannibalism among people known as the Xiximes who inhabited this region, but of course many historians have dismissed that as propaganda. The new evidence suggests the Jesuits were right: