Monday, July 10, 2017

The Aztec Wolf Sacrifice

Archaeologists in Mexico City have uncovered the burial of a young wolf laden with gold and other goods.

Held in a stone box, the cache was discovered in April near the capital city's bustling main square, the Zocalo, behind the colonial-era Roman Catholic cathedral and off the steps of what was once the most important Aztec ceremonial temple, now known as the Templo Mayor. . . .

Not long after the roughly eight-month-old wolf was killed, it was likely dressed with golden ornaments as well as a belt of shells from the Atlantic Ocean, then carefully placed in a stone box by Aztec priests above a layer of flint knives, according to Lopez.

The west-facing wolf represented Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec war god and solar deity. Wolves were believed to help guide fallen warriors across a dangerous river in the netherworld.
The peak of Aztec power was blood-soaked to an alarming and probably unsustainable degree, and this wolf seems to be related to that violence:
The golden wolf was buried during the 1486-1502 reign of King Ahuitzotl, the most feared and powerful ruler of the Mexica, who extended the empire as far south as present-day Guatemala. The reign of Ahuitzotl was particularly brutal, which may also explain the fate of the young wolf.

Lopez said tests on its ribs will be needed to confirm his theory that the animal's heart was torn out as part of the sacrifice, just as captured warriors were ritually killed on blood-soaked platforms of Aztec temples.
This location is in the middle of the city and the stone box survived by a lucky chance: a sewer line installed in the 19th century clipped the box and came within inches of breaking it open.

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