Trapped in their cells, the captives must have heard the screams and wondered when it would be their turn. Day after day, month after month, individuals were selected and hauled outside, never to return. Their fellow prisoners could have little concept of quite what had befallen them, however.
In 2015 archaeologists working in Zultépec-Tecoaque in Tlaxcala, Mexico found disturbing new evidence of how 550 individuals met their deaths in the early sixteenth century. The Spanish-led travelers were en route to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan – now Mexico City – when they were captured in 1520. They were imprisoned before being sacrificed to the gods and consumed as food over the course of months.
The discoveries are significant as they help to dispel the belief that indigenous Mexicans did little to resist the Spanish invasion. They also suggest that history could have turned out very differently for the region. Indeed, Hernán Cortés, the man who would conquer the Aztec empire, had himself been part of the ill-fated group. If he had been captured and killed then history might have followed a very different path.