CITY OF MEXICO – New research suggests the Spanish conquistadors slaughtered at least a dozen women and their children in an Aztec-allied city where locals sacrificed and ate a detachment of Spaniards they had captured months earlier.
The National Institute of Anthropology and History on Monday released the results of years of excavation work in the town of Tecoaque, which means “the place where they ate them” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs.
Residents of Tecoaque, also known as Zultepec, captured a convoy of around 15 Spaniards, 50 women and 10 children, 45 infantry including Cubans of African and indigenous descent, and around 350 allies from indigenous groups in 1520 All have apparently been sacrificed. within a few months.
When he heard about it, the conquistador Hernán Cortes ordered Gonzalo de Sandoval to destroy the city for revenge in early 1521.
Archaeologist Enrique Martínez Vargas said excavations suggest residents of Tecoaque knew a retaliatory attack was coming and threw the bones of the Spaniards – some of which had been carved into trophies – and other evidence in wells shallow.
Locals also attempted to erect primitive defensive works along the town’s main thoroughfare, none of which worked when De Sandoval and his Punitive Expedition arrived.
“Some of the warriors who remained in the city managed to escape, but the women and children remained, and they were the main victims,” the institute said in a statement. “What we were able to demonstrate on a 120-meter (yard) stretch of the main thoroughfare, where the skeletons of a dozen women were found who appeared to ‘protect’ the bones of ten children aged five to six . . “
Photos from the excavations show children’s bones alongside those of adult women, with some skulls or arm bones of women facing the young.
“The location of the graves suggests that these people were fleeing, were hastily slaughtered and buried,” the institute said. “Women and children who took shelter inside the rooms were mutilated, as evidenced by the discovery of carved bones on the ground. The temples were set on fire and the statues were beheaded.
Cruelty was on display on both sides at Tecoaque, the site of one of the worst defeats of the Spanish conquest of 1519-1521.
The heads of the Spanish captives were hung on cranial supports next to those of the men. Analysis of the bones revealed that the women were pregnant and, in pre-Hispanic practice, this may have characterized them as “warriors.” Another sacrificial offering included the body of a woman that was cut in half near the remains of a dismembered child aged 3 or 4.
A Spanish man was dismembered and burned to replicate the mythical fates of the gods of the Aztec era, according to a myth known as “El Quinto Sol” or Fifth Sun.
The convoy was made up of people sent from Cuba on a second expedition a year after Cortes’ initial landing in 1519 and they were heading to the Aztec capital with supplies and possessions from the conquerors. Cortes had been forced to leave the convoy on his own as he tried to save his troops from an uprising in what is now Mexico City.
Members of the captured convoy were held in cells without doors, where they were fed for six months, experts said. Gradually, the city sacrificed and apparently ate the horses, men and women. But the pigs brought in by the Spaniards for food were apparently viewed with such suspicion that they were killed whole and left uneaten.
In contrast, the skeletons of captured Europeans were torn apart and had cut marks indicating that the meat had been removed from the bones.
Cortes went on to conquer the Aztec capital later in 1521.
Mexico marks the 500th anniversary of the conquest this year with a special series of research and scholarship conferences.
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