Temple of flayed god found in Mexico

Archaeologists excavating the archaeological site of Ndachjian-Tehuacan in the central Mexican state of Puebla have unearthed the first known temple dedicated to the Aztec flayed god Xipe Tótec. The temple enclosure is 40 feet long and 11.5 feet high. Assorted architectural elements, two sacrificial altars and three sculptures carved from volcanic stone were found there: two of skinned skulls and one torso covered with the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim were found there. The temple was in use between 1000 and 1260 A.D.

Xipe Tótec, meaning “Our Lord the Flayed One” in Nahuatl, was the god of life, death, rebirth, agriculture and war. He was one of the most important deities in pre-Hispanic Mexico and he was widely worshiped throughout western and central Mexico as well as in the Gulf, but no temples directly associated with his worship had been found before now.

Images of him have survived in statues and illustrations in codices. He was depicted wearing the flayed flesh of the sacrificed, the hands dangling from his wrists. His emergence from the rotting flesh symbolized the renewal of the seasons, like a snake shedding its skin or new plants coming to life after the desolation of winter. The codices also describe the sites where people were flayed as sacrifices to Xipe Tótec. The layout of the temple and the attributes of the sculptures match the descriptions in those sources.

On one sculpture, an extra right hand hanging backwards from the left arm of the torso symbolizes the skin of the victim that was left hanging after the ritual flaying, say the archeologists.

“Sculpturally it is a very beautiful piece,” said archeologist Noemí Castillo Tejero of the National Institute of Anthropology and History in a press release. “It is around 80 centimeters tall and has a hole in the stomach that was used, according to sources, to put in a green stone and ‘bring them to life’ for the ceremonies.”

Each skull is around 70 centimeters tall and weighs about 200 kilograms.

The important religious festival known as the Tlacaxipehualiztli, meaning “to put on the skin of the skinned one” in Nahuatl, was performed on two circular altars. One was used to sacrifice captives who first fought in gladiatoral-style combat. The other was used to skin them. The priest would then don the skin of the flayed. Because Xipe Tótec was associated with a number of diseases from acne to eye infections, worshipers would touch the flayed skin in the belief that it would cure illness. The skin was then deposited in holes. Two holes were found in the ground in front of the altars in the recently-discovered temple.

The sculptures have been recovered from the site and will be studied before being put on display at the Ndachjian-Tehuacán museum.


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Comment by Karen
2019-01-04 08:36:01

:ohnoes: I often daydream about time travelling to various times and places. Aztec Mexico is never one of those times and places. It’s absolutely fascinating, to be sure, and humans everywhere have their own forms of extreme violence. But the visceral goriness of some of the ceremonies . . . :no:

Comment by dearieme
2019-01-04 12:33:49

I watched part of a documentary about the history of Sicily yesterday. It was clearly intended to be a festival of political correctness. In spite of which they did admit that the Carthaginians/Phoenicians indulged in child sacrifice.

Which made me wonder: are there any allusions to that in the Old Testament? I mean, the Phoenicians and the Israelites were (presumably) just two varieties of Canaanite, living not far apart. Google found me this: http://asorblog.org/2017/12/05/child-sacrifice-ancient-israel/

Unsurprisingly I can’t remember the topic coming up at Sunday School.

Comment by Susie
2019-01-04 13:42:05

Very interesting but also very very creepy…..

Comment by Ghengis K.
2019-01-04 16:32:03

A Happy New Year, and Hail to the Deceased! :hattip: – with kindest regards from Western Asia (Khortytsya Reserve), and from two and a half millennia ago:

“Ἐνιαυτοῦ δὲ περιφερομένου αὖτις ποιεῦσι τοιόνδε· λαβόντες τῶν λοιπῶν θεραπόντων τοὺς ἐπιτηδεοτάτους (οἳ δὲ εἰσὶ Σκύθαι ἐγγενέες· οὗτοι γὰρ θεραπεύουσι τοὺς ἂν αὐτὸς ὁ βασιλεὺς κελεύσῃ ἀργυρώνητοι δὲ οὐκ εἰσί σφι θεράποντες), τούτων ὦν τῶν διηκόνων ἐπεὰν ἀποπνίξωσι πεντήκοντα καὶ ἵππους τοὺς καλλίστους πεντήκοντα, ἐξελόντες αὐτῶν τὴν κοιλίην καὶ καθήραντες ἐμπιπλᾶσι ἀχύρων καὶ συῤῥάπτουσι. ἁψῖδος δὲ ἥμισυ ἐπὶ δύο ξύλα στήσαντες ὕπτιον καὶ τὸ ἕτερον ἥμισυ τῆς ἁψῖδος ἐπ᾽ ἕτερα δύο, καταπήξαντες τρόπῳ τοιούτῳ πολλὰ ταῦτα, ἔπειτα τῶν ἵππων κατὰ τὰ μήκεα ξύλα παχέα διελάσαντες μέχρι τῶν τραχήλων ἀναβιβάζουσι αὐτοὺς ἐπὶ τὰς ἁψῖδας· τῶν δὲ αἱ μὲν πρότεραι ἀψῖδες ὑπέχουσι τοὺς ὤμους τῶν ἵππων, αἱ δὲ ὄπισθε παρὰ τοὺς μηροὺς τὰς γαστέρας ὑπολαμβάνουσι· σκέλεα δὲ ἀμφότερα κατακρέμαται μετέωρα. χαλινοὺς δὲ καὶ στόμια ἐμβαλόντες ἐς τοὺς ἵππους κατατείνουσι ἐς τὸ πρόσθε αὐτῶν καὶ ἔπειτα ἐκ πασσάλων δέουσι. τῶν δὲ δὴ νεηνίσκων τῶν ἀποπεπνιγμένων τῶν πεντήκοντα ἕνα ἕκαστον ἀναβιβάζουσι ἐπὶ τὸν ἵππον, ὧδε ἀναβιβάζοντες, ἐπεὰν νεκροῦ ἑκάστου παρὰ τὴν ἄκανθαν ξύλον ὀρθὸν διελάσωσι μέχρι τοῦ τραχήλου· κάτωθεν δὲ ὑπερέχει τοῦ ξύλου τούτου τὸ ἐς τόρμον πηγνύουσι τοῦ ἑτέρου ξύλου τοῦ διὰ τοῦ ἵππου. ἐπιστήσαντες δὲ κύκλῳ τὸ σῆμα ἱππέας τοιούτους ἀπελαύνουσι.”

“[one year later] …they take the most capable of the remaining servants,[…] then they strangle fifty and also fifty of the finest horses; and when they have taken out their bowels and cleansed the belly, they fill it with chaff and sew it together. Then, they set the half of a wheel upon two stakes with the hollow side upwards, and the other half of the wheel upon other two stakes, and in this manner they fix a number of these; and after this they run thick stakes through the length of the horses as far as the necks, and they mount them upon the wheels […] having first run a straight stake through each body along by the spine up to the neck; and a part of this stake projects below, which they fasten into a socket made in the other stake that runs through the horse. Having set the ‘horsemen’ such as I have described in a circle round the [royal] tomb, they ride away.”

Comment by scott Glen Young
2019-01-04 22:05:25

Jer 19:5; Deut 12:31; 2 Kings 23:10; Jer 7:3. My sunday school teachers liked to tell scary stories.

Comment by Ann
2019-01-04 23:42:06

Abraham and Isaac — the official version is that the Lord relented at the last moment, but Genesis is a mishmash of several earlier works, so it’s possible that in one of them Isaac was actually sacrificed (or, as someone I know used to say, after several days alone with a whining child, Abraham might have been ready to sacrifice him!).

Jephthah actually did sacrifice his daughter (In Judges 11:30-31)

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September 2020


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