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Professor Patrick Lesbre

Question for April 2011

What animals did they sacrifice? Do people still sacrifice animals in Mexico today? Asked by Chalfont St. Giles Junior School. Chosen and answered by Professor Patrick Lesbre.

Evidence of land and sea creatures sacrificed by the Mexica and found in one of the Templo Mayor offerings (Museo del Templo Mayor)
Evidence of land and sea creatures sacrificed by the Mexica and found in one of the Templo Mayor offerings (Museo del Templo Mayor) (Click on image to enlarge)

English:
Amongst others the Mexica sacrificed birds (eg quail) and snakes but also insects such as crickets or butterflies (for the foundation ceremonies of cities).
The offerings at the Templo Mayor reveal an amazing variety of animals brought from all over Mesoamerica - even from the Pacific or Gulf coasts, such as sawfish and jaguars. Recently archaeologists have proved that certain remote species of fish were transported live to Tenochtitlan in order to be included in offerings.
Nowadays indigenous peoples in Mexico still sacrifice hens. The Tlapanecas sacrifice a cat once a year when a new police superintendent takes up his post: the cat (an animal brought to Mexico by the Spanish) replaces the jaguar which was sacrificed in pre-Hispanic times.

Pre-Hispanic ceramic and stone animal figures, Diego Rivera ‘Anahuacalli’ Museum, Mexico City
Pre-Hispanic ceramic and stone animal figures, Diego Rivera ‘Anahuacalli’ Museum, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

Español:
Sacrificaban entre otros pájaros (codorniz), serpientes pero también insectos como chapulines o mariposas (para fundación de ciudades).
Las ofrendas del Templo Mayor revelan una variedad asombrante de animales venidos de toda Mesoamérica, hasta de las costas pacíficas o del Golfo, tales como peces sierra o jaguar. Y recientemente los arqueólogos hasta compraboron que ciertos peces lejanos habían sido llevados a México-Tenochtitlan vivos para ofrendarlos.
Hoy en día los indios siguen sacrificando gallinas. Los Tlapanecas sacrifican un gato cada año cuando el comisario asume su cargo: el gato (animal traído por los españoles) sirve para reemplazar al sacrificio de jaguar en época prehispánica.

Picture sources:-
Photos by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore

Explore our growing section on Aztec Flora and Fauna

Professor Patrick Lesbre has answered 2 questions altogether:

What animals did they sacrifice? Do people still sacrifice animals in Mexico today?

Which was the second biggest town/city in Aztec times?

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