ARCHAEOLOGISTS in Mexico have uncovered the first temple of a pre-Hispanic fertility god depicted as a skinned human corpse.
Built to worship the all powerful “Flayed Lord”, the shrine was found during recent excavations of Popoloca Indian ruins in the central state of Puebla.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said they found two skull-like stone carvings and a stone trunk depicting the god, Xipe Totec.
It had an extra hand dangling off one arm, suggesting the god was wearing the skin of a sacrificial victim.
Priests worshipped Xipe Totec by skinning humans and then donning their skins.
The ritual was seen as a way to ensure new babies and the survival of crops.
The Popolocas built the temple at a complex known as Ndachjian-Tehuacan between A.D. 1000 and 1260 and were later conquered by the Aztecs.
Ancient accounts of the rituals suggested victims were killed in gladiator-style combat or by arrows on one platform.
They were then skinned on another platform.
The layout of the temple at Tehuacan seems to match that description.
Who was the Lord of the Flayed?
Xipe Tótec — aka the Lord of the Flayed — was central to Aztec mythology.
Life as they knew depended on the god.
This explains why they sacrificed humans to honour him.
Skins were peeled off victims and their hearts cut out.
Xipe Totec statues would be ritually dressed in the flayed skin of sacrificial victims.
Priests also worshipped him by skinning victims and then wearing them as a costume.
Bodies were placed in small holes in front of the altars.
They were then sealed up with the carvings.
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Depictions of the Flayed Lord had been found before in other cultures, including the Aztecs, but not a whole temple.
University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie said: “Finding the torso fragment of a human wearing the flayed skin of a sacrificial victim in situ is perhaps the most compelling evidence of the association of this practice.
“If the Aztec sources could be relied upon, a singular temple to this deity does not necessarily indicate that this was the place of sacrifice.
“The Aztec practice was to perform the sacrificial death in one or more places, but to ritually store the skins in another, after they had been worn by living humans for some days.
“So it could be that this is the temple where they were kept, making it all the more sacred.”
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