January 23, 2008
Mayans May Have Sacrificed Boys, Not Girls
The ancient Mayans may not have sacrificed virgin girls as previously thought; instead, bones reveal that they may have been young boys instead.
The ancient Mayans had many temples and palaces in Mexico and Central America; these temples had priests, and the priests had to make sacrifices.
In the city of Chichen Itza in the Yucatan peninsula priests sacrificed children by throwing them into underwater caves called cenotes. These sacrifices were often to the rain gods in order to have fertile fields. The caves were often thought to be an entrance to the underworld.
It has been known for years that the Mayans sacrificed children, but it was believed until recently that they specifically sacrificed girls. Archaeologist Guillermo de Anda from the University of Yucatan said that these children were skinned, often dismembered, and sacrificed to please the rain god Chaac. De Anda states, "It was thought that the gods preferred small things and especially the rain god had four helpers that were represented as tiny people. So the children were offered as a way to directly communicate with Chaac."
The reason those sacrifices were believed to be girls were because they often wore jade jewelry. De Anda pieced together 127 bodies discovered in one of Chichen Itza's keynotes and found that at least 80 percent of them were young boys; the other 20 percent were adult men.
The gender of skeletons is difficult to determine if it is not fully matured, however cultural evidence from Mayan mythology also suggests the young sacrifices were male.
PHOTO CAPTION: The Castle (El Castillo) at the World Heritage Site Chichen Itza.