Anthropologists Recount Grisly Tale of Conquistador Era

One mass atrocity was answered with another in Tecoaque
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 19, 2021 10:30 AM CST
Anthropologists Recount Grisly Tale of Conquistador Era
In this 2015 file photo, the skeletons of sacrificed Spaniards are displayed inside a glass case at the museum of the Zultepec-Tecoaque archaeological site in Tlaxcala state, Mexico.   (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

It's a particularly gruesome page of history. New research suggests Spanish conquistadores butchered at least a dozen women and their children in an Aztec-allied town in an act of revenge, per the AP. It seems the inhabitants had sacrificed and eaten a detachment of Spaniards they'd captured months earlier. The National Institute of Anthropology and History published findings Monday from excavation work in the Mexican town of Tecoaque, which means "the place where they ate them" in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. Residents of Tecoaque, also known as Zultepec, captured a convoy of about 15 male Spaniards, 50 women, 10 children, 45 foot soldiers, and about 350 allies from Indigenous groups in 1520. All were apparently killed over the space of months. When he heard about it, conquistador Hernan Cortes ordered the town destroyed in 1521.

"Some of the warriors who had stayed in the town managed to flee, but women and children remained, and they were the main victims," the institute said in a statement. "This we have been able to demonstrate over a 120-meter stretch of the main thoroughfare, where the skeletons of a dozen women were found who appeared to be 'protecting' the bones of 10 children between the ages of 5 and 6." Archaeologist Enrique Martinez Vargas said excavations suggest the inhabitants of Tecoaque knew a reprisal attack was coming and tossed the bones of the Spaniards—some of which had been carved into trophies—and other evidence into shallow wells. Cortes, meanwhile, would go on to conquer the Aztec capital later in 1521. Mexico is marking the 500th anniversary of the conquest this year with a special round of research and scholarly conferences.

(Read more discoveries stories.)

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