Who were the individuals sacrificed at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan? Historical sources mention prisoners of war, but a recent study indicates that not all of them were taken from conquered lands and some were residents of the Valley of Mexico.
"There was this general idea that sacrifices were mostly the result of wars, people taken from the populations gradually conquered" by the Mexicas, whose imperial capital was Mexico-Tenochtitlan, archaeologist Alan Barrera, who conducted the study, told EFE.
It was also thought that victims "were brought directly from their places of origin and sacrificed almost immediately" after arriving in the metropolis, Barrera said.
A study of human bone fragments, however, made it possible to conclude that some of the victims of sacrifices had been living among the Mexica for at least six years.
Young men captured in wars were not the only people sacrificed, and the victims included women, the elderly and children.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers took samples from the remains of six individuals found among the Great Temple's sacrificial victims, extracting the material from skulls and teeth.
The samples were put through a strontium isotope analysis to identify the individuals' places of origin.
The researchers operated on the premise that in ancient societies, it was not very feasible for individuals to travel from one region to the other, and that people mostly ate local products.
Individuals marked for sacrifice but not among captured warriors became "captives to be servants for the elite," made up of people with some high political rank.
The individuals whose remains were studied at the isotope geochemistry lab of the National Autonomous University of Mexico's Geophysics Institute lived between 1469 and 1521, during the reigns of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, Axayacatl and Moctecuhzoma Xocoyotzin.