The human sacrifice as an offering to the gods It was a tradition of the pre-Hispanic inhabitants of Mexico, which ended in the skinning of the sacrificed. Archaeologists have confirmed the existence of this ritual with the discovery of a temple to the god Xipe Totec, known as "our flayed lord", in the archaeological zone of Ndachjian-Tehuacán, south of the State of Puebla (central Mexico). The region was inhabited by popolocas, descendants of the Olmec, in the post-classic period and until a few years before the Spanish Conquest. The researchers had previously documented the cult of this deity, but this is the first time they have found a building to honor it.
The find includes two sacrificial altars and three stone sculptures: two skinned skulls, weighing 200 kilograms; and a torso that simulates being covered with skin of the offering. Xipe Tótec was honored by popolocas to influence in a better fertility for its towns, to have fruitful agricultural cycles and to win in the war. The temple was used between 1000 and 1260 AD, according to the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The building is located in the west of the archaeological zone and measures 12 meters long by 3.5 meters high. The vestiges indicate that the building had at least three stages from the year 900 to the fifteenth century.
The ritual of flaying was celebrated at the party of Tlacaxipehualiztli – which in Nahuatl means "to put on the skin of the flayed one" – in which the prisoners of war were sacrificed. "It was commonly carried out on two circular altars: in the first, the captives were sacrificed by gladiatorial fights or arrows; and in the second the skinning was done to glorify Xipe Totec, a process in which the priests dressed themselves with the skin of the individual, which they later deposited in small holes made in the esplanades, in front of the altars ", explains the INAH .
Popolocas inhabited the southern states of Puebla and Veracruz and reached some areas of Oaxaca. The region was a key position for trade in southern Mesoamerica so the deity of the skinning was known in the center, west and Gulf of Mexico. The two rock skulls recently found were carved in volcanic stone – possibly rhyolite – that does not belong to the region. Experts estimate that the stones were imported and that the ancient artisans carved them once the monolith was moved to the temple. "The skulls are the first ones that are located in Ndachjian as isolated elements and carved in rock; in other occasions they have been found as part of sculptures, made with mud, or they work as architectural nails of some vestige, "says the INAH.
Like other peoples, the popolocas were also subdued by the Mexicas. First by Moctezuma Ilhuicamina and Ahízotl, who forced them to pay tributes, although the total domination occurred with Moctezuma Xocoyotzin –the tlatoani who received Hernán Cortés in Tenochtitlan–. The Mexica ignored the existence of the temple dedicated to Xipe Totec, although they shared the tradition for human sacrifice. Some of the Popoloca leaders who survived the Mexica invasion allied with the Spanish conquers to overthrow Moctezuma.