General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Nov 2017/5 Eagle
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Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

Professor Cecelia F. Klein

Question for October 2013

If there is a soul in the liver, did they do any [human] sacrifices taking out the liver? Asked by Hurstpierpoint College Prep School. Chosen and answered by Professor Cecelia F. Klein.

Livers or hearts? Skeletal figure, Codex Magliabechiano, fol 76r (L); statue of Mictlantecuhtli, Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City (R)
Livers or hearts? Skeletal figure, Codex Magliabechiano, fol 76r (L); statue of Mictlantecuhtli, Templo Mayor Museum, Mexico City (R) (Click on image to enlarge)

No surviving sixteenth century document says that the Aztecs removed the liver when they performed human sacrifices. Instead they all say that it was the heart or the head that was removed. However, some scholars think that the strange, tri-lobed object hanging over the chest of a skeletal figure in the Codex Magliabechiano (folio 76r) (picture, left) is a liver, and Leonardo López Luján and Vida Mercado identified as a liver the object dangling from beneath the rib cage of two almost life-size ceramic skeletal figures found in the House of the Eagles in the main ceremonial precinct (picture, right). Their identification has been challenged by Uta Berger, however. She argues that the object is indeed a human heart, a reading that López Luján has rejected.

Images:-
• Image from the Codex Magliabechiano scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1970
• Photo by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore.

Professor Cecelia F. Klein has answered 2 questions altogether:

If there is a soul in the liver, did they do any [human] sacrifices taking out the liver?

If the Aztecs began as a small, peaceful, wandering tribe, why did they end up being so aggressive as a people?

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