General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Apr 2021/4 Wind
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Article suitable for older students

Human excrement eaten by the earth lord, Codex Borgia

Human waste was put to good use

Commentators today usually agree that Tenochtitlan was a relatively clean city by the standards of the day, and that the Mexica/Aztecs cherished cleanliness in their daily lives. We know that they not only constructed public toilets, but that they found good uses for human waste products... (Written by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

POO was collected in canoes placed carefully under bridges that had loos at regular intervals. It was taken away and used as perfectly good manure/fertiliser (apparently, it conserves valuable elements like nitrogen and phosphorous - the ancient Chinese did the same).
PEE had many uses. Alfredo López Austin explains: ‘Without a doubt, urine was the product of the human body most used in ancient therapeutics [remedial medicine]. It was utilised to treat the sternum [breastbone], dandruff, boils on the head, ringworm of the scalp, abscesses, wounds, ear infections, chapped faces, neck infections, and even tartar on the teeth as well as internal contusions [bruises], this last requiring the medicine to be drunk.’ (Yuk!)

Quote from The Human Body and Ideology by Alfredo López Austin (trans. Ortiz de Montellano), vol. I, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1988, p. 179
Image from the Codex Borgia scanned from our own copy of the ADEVA facsimile edition, Graz, Austria, 1976 (pl. 14, detail).

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Nov 24th 2018

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