When it comes to human sacrifice, those who follow the practice believe that they will receive something in return for their deed. They may seek assistance from a supernatural being or wish to further a greater end. In this article, you will learn of the cultures and religious practices that once relied on human sacrifice as a prominent belief.
We already know that the practice of human sacrifice dates back at least 5,000 years, sprouting in the historical record of early agricultural societies of Europe. Evidence shows that Danish farmers would sacrifice some of their stone axes, flint tools, food, and amber jewelry, which they would place in pots and toss into the bogs. Human offerings were also added to the mix. One of the earliest cases is thought to involved two girls that were discovered , found at Sigersdal near Copenhagen. They were aged 16 and 18 years of age, killed around 3500 BC. One of the girls had a cord still wrapped around her neck.
The royal tombs of ancient Mesopotamia also showcased the bodies of guards, musicians, handmaidens and grooms, who were given lethal dose of poison before being sealed to their posts.
However, when it comes to some of the largest mass sacrifices associated with dead rulers, it would have to be the ancient people of the African kingdom of Kerma, which thrived around 1500 BC. Sometimes, 500 people at a time could be buried in large grave pits situated next to their dead king. A large mound was used to cover the bodies.
Around this same time as the African kingdoms, the royal tombs of the Shang Dynasty at Anyang in China were also filled with the bodies of sacrificed individuals. During the second century BC, workers and soldiers were buried in the tomb along with the first Chinese emperor. Famously, an army of terracotta substitute soldiers was also left behind.
The ancient civilizations of South America also have a past dotted with human sacrifices. Priests of Aztec origin believed that sacrifices performed in the temples at the top of pyramids would keep the sun on its daily course. The priests were known to cut out the heart of a victim while it was still beating. They would then allow the blood to flow down the steps of the pyramid.
Buried underneath the foundations of the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, found at Teotihuacan in Mexico, the bodies of more than 100 sacrificed warriors were placed. Dating back to around 150 AD, these bodies are thought to have served as supernatural guardians for the Aztec temple.