Archeologists have discovered the remains of two dozen children who were apparent sacrificial victims to a rain god by ancient Indians in Mexico, researchers said Tuesday.
The bones of the children, dating from about 950 to 1150, were found on the outskirts of the Toltec archaeological zone of Tula, said Luis Gamboa, an archaeologist with the National Institute of Anthropology and History.
The discovery about 40 miles north of Mexico City predates the Aztecs, an advanced civilization conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century.
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The bodies of the children, who ranged in age from 5 to about 15, were found in a single pit during excavations that began last month near a police station just outside the archaeological site.
All of the bodies were laid out in the same position — facing east — around a shrine to the god Tlaloc, leading archeologists to believe "this was something collective, done simultaneously," in a single ritual, Gamboa said.
"They had some incisions on the vertebrae that suggested they had used some sort of [stone] to cut their throats," he said.
Accounts written by Spanish priests soon after Spain conquered the Aztecs in 1521 indicated that the tribe had sacrificed children and archeologists have since discovered the remains of some Aztec children who had been offered to the rain god.
The Toltecs are thought to have dominated central Mexico between the 10th and 12th centuries, before the Aztecs rose to prominence.
The Aztecs believed that sacrificed children would become the servants of Tlaloc, and bring more rain, said Archaeologist Victor Arribalzaga, who is excavating a temple to Tlaloc on the eastern outskirts of Mexico City.
The new evidence suggests that the Toltecs may have had similar beliefs.