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Tzompantli

Tzompantli was an altar in the form of a frame where a set of skulls were mounted before public view in order to honor the gods. It is a structure that is believed to have derived from the practice among ancient Mesoamericans of decapitating the victims of human sacrifices and keeping their skulls in a kind of wooden palisade for public display.

The sacrificed victims were not only captive warriors but slaves or other victims specially chosen for certain celebrations could also be chosen. A kind of palisade or platform was used on which the heads or skulls were inserted after making a hole.

There are many documented tzompantlis throughout Mesoamerica, ranging from the Middle Classic period (c. 600–900) to the Early Postclassic (c. 900-1250).3 In 2017, archaeologists announced the discovery of the one known as the Huey Tzompantli, with more than 650 skulls, in the archaeological zone of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City.

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