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Presentism and Human Sacrifice in the Aztec Empire - Essay Example

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Presentism and Human Sacrifice in the Aztec Empire Professor number Presentism and the Aztec Empire Presentism can be defined as a branch of literary and historical analysis wherein the perceptions, beliefs and values of the present times are used as the yardstick to evaluate historical epochs and eras…
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Presentism and Human Sacrifice in the Aztec Empire
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Download file to see previous pages Among many other distinguishing features, the practice of human sacrifice is a custom that the Aztecs are known for. The sacrifices, which were made for ritualistic and religious purposes have assumed centrality in many contemporary academic debates. It is thus pertinent to discuss and analyze whether it is indeed accurate to judge the practices of the Mesoamerican period using the parameters of contemporary moralities. In Discovering the Global Past, the authors Wiesner, Wheeler, Doeringer and Curtis seek to study the Aztec culture from the perspective of the European colonizers as well as those of the indigenous Aztec people. The historical and ethnographic accounts of Bernardino de Sahagun are particularly important in this regard. In the section titled ‘Aztec accounts of temples, palaces, and games related to Bernadino de Sahagun’, the work shows how the Aztec ritual of human sacrifice had a complex logic of its own, and was not a practice of meaningless violence as it is often portrayed to be (Wiesner). The Aztecs believed that human life was sustained by a continuous sacrifice made by the gods. They used the term tonacayotl for this purpose, which roughly translates into ‘the necessary spiritual bodily sacrifice’ on earth. ...
Sahagun’s accounts show that the lofty temple-pyramids of the Aztecs served as the site for these sacrifices. Unbiased historical research has also shown that it is incorrect to assume that the only the common folk were victimized as a result of this practice. Such a claim can be refuted at many levels, the primary being the fact that slaves in the Aztec empire, who constituted the majority of those who were offered for sacrifice, were not determined by birth. Rather, they could be people from any social rank who had committed anything unlawful. In fact, there is evidence to believe that the people embraced and incorporated the custom in their lives quite willingly. Historical accounts also how that the Aztec rulers sacrificed their own blood to ensure the well-being of their subjects. The six parts to each chapter in Discovering the Global Past reflect an attempt to consider multifarious historical events and periods in a systematic, pedagogic manner. There is also a thorough investigation of the root causes of the cultural bias which has become an almost intrinsic part of most models of historical study regarding the Native American civilizations. Most of the colonial accounts of the Aztec empire were formulated during the years of the siege of Tenochtitlan by the Spaniards under the leadership of Hernan Cortes. Perhaps it can be argued that the racism of the European colonizers, triggered by religious orthodoxy, was the first governing cause which shaped the colonial impulse. The flawed academic approach of presentism, too, can be attributed to certain kind of racism, and an inability to understand or appreciate other cultures. Presentism which labeled the Aztec ritual of human sacrifices as inhuman and barbaric ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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