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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.

Good to know, right?


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