10 civilizations that performed Ritual Sacrifice

(ORDO NEWS) — Since the dawn of mankind, countless civilizations have performed ritual sacrifices. Often these sacrifices involved other people and were so common that they were considered a normal aspect of life.

Belonging to these civilizations meant the risk of dying as a result of sacrifice, be it religious or cultural. In some cultures, it was even considered an honor to be sacrificed!

Who and why was engaged in ritual sacrifices?

Ritual sacrifice is a practice in which a living being is killed as an offering to higher powers. This higher power is often seen as a god or gods. In communities where sacrifice is common, it is often believed that they are a necessary part of life and help restore sacred order to the universe.

Ritual sacrifice has been around for thousands of years in cultures around the world and is in fact one of the earliest known forms of worship in history. Every culture has its own form of ritual sacrifice.

In some cultures, animals are slaughtered and sacrificed as small sacrifices, while human sacrifices are reserved for larger events such as religious ceremonies. In other cultures, people are considered the only living being worth sacrificing to higher powers.

There were many reasons for ritual sacrifices, although most of them had religious purposes. It was believed that the willingness to sacrifice others to the gods was a sign of respect and devotion, which in turn would lead to heavenly blessings.

Many societies have performed this bloody ritual, but ten of them stand out as the most terrible and cruel.

1- Etruscans

The first group on our list, the Etruscans, lived in what is now Tuscany. The majority of the population were farmers who traded with nearby regions such as Carthage and Greece.

Although early historians were not convinced that the Etruscans practiced human sacrifice, recent excavations have revealed numerous sites of human sacrifice.

In particular, the bodies of several people, including adults, children and infants, were found surrounded by religious objects, including an altar, ritual weapons and other objects of worship.

In one case, the body of a small child was found decapitated and its feet used as a lining for a wall foundation.

In addition to these finds, ancient texts describing the practice of human sacrifice as well as works of art depicting human sacrifice have been found in the region.

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The Pyramid of Bomarzo, also called the Etruscan Pyramid or Preacher’s Stone, dates from the 7th century BC. Sacrificial altar and primitive astronomical observatory Lazio Italy

2- Egyptians

Although not often talked about, there is evidence that indicates that the ancient Egyptians performed ritual sacrifice at some level. In some regions, sacrificial tombs discovered indicate that the ancient Egyptians performed various types of religious sacrifice, some of which included humans.

Some of the tombs, including those of King Jer and King Aha, had the bodies of their servants next to them. In some cases, evidence indicates that these servants were buried alive next to the body of their masters.

However, other records indicate that servants were sacrificed after the master’s death so that they could continue to serve him in the afterlife.

This was especially true for the servants of the pharaohs. Due to cultural changes, the sacrifice of living servants eventually ceased and was replaced by symbolic figures.

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The beheading of a man to appease the gods

3- Chinese

Human sacrifice has been practiced in ancient China for centuries. It was especially common during the Shang Dynasty, between 1600 and 1046 BC. While in some cultures human sacrifices were only used for religious purposes, in China they were also used for political purposes.

Ritual human sacrifice in China knew no bounds, and they often sacrificed men, women, children, and even babies in unspeakably cruel and agonizing ways.

Many of these religious sacrifices served as a way to please their ancestors. Some rituals involved the beheading of several males in a tribe in honor of their male ancestors, with more heads required for more significant ancestors.

Such sacrifices were called pit sacrifices, and the dismembered bodies of men were buried without their worldly possessions.

The Chinese practiced two other forms of human sacrifice: foundation and internment. Foundation sacrifices were for children and infants, who were brutally killed and then buried without any possessions.

Young women were sacrificed to the internees, although they were not dismembered and were allowed to be buried with property, unlike the other two types of sacrifices.

4- The Incas

The Inca civilization often used ritual sacrifice as a way to appease the gods. At that time, the Incas faced many natural disasters, including earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

In the end, the Incas decided that human sacrifice would help appease the gods and end their suffering when it came to these natural disasters.

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Cruel ritual human sacrifice in Peru

At first, the victims of these human sacrifices were prisoners of war. When the use of these people as human victims did not help stop natural disasters, children began to be used. It was believed that children are more innocent and pure than captives, and will be more pleasing to the gods.

In the end, children were raised only to be sacrificed to the gods. These children were to remain physically healthy, well fed and treated until they died, just as animals are often prepared for slaughter. Before the final sacrifice, they were given a huge feast and a meeting with the emperor before execution.

5- Aztecs

The Aztecs are known for their cruelty like few others. Not alien to violence, the Aztecs performed a significant amount of human sacrifice for religious purposes. The main reason for these sacrifices was the belief that the sun would die if they did not make enough sacrifices to the gods.

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Left: The Aztecs may have killed one hundred thousand people a year in ritual sacrifices. (Public domain) Right: Skulls were often put on public display on the compantlis. Images from the 16th-century Codex Duran

In the Aztec civilization, human blood was considered a sacred life force. Huitzilopochtli was their chief god, personifying the sun. They believed that Huitzilopochtli needed some of that life force to continue to bless them and allow them to live on Earth.

This belief was so strong that some people even voluntarily sacrificed themselves to save the sun. They also sacrificed prisoners of war when they no longer needed them.

These ritual sacrifices were cruel and public. To reach the priest, the victims had to climb to the top of the temple, which often consisted of many flights of stairs.

Then the priest cut their torso from the throat to the pelvis. After that, their bodies were thrown down the stairs for dismemberment, and their hearts were left for another religious sacrifice to the gods.

Some ancient texts report that the Aztecs once sacrificed 80,400 captives in just four days. If this number is accurate, then it can be assumed that the Aztecs annually sacrificed hundreds of thousands of people for the sake of the sun.

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Wall of skulls (tzompantli) from human sacrifices at Templo Mayor, Mexico City

6- Israelis

Several texts state that ritual sacrifice was a regular part of the culture of the ancient Israelites. Some scholars argue that a certain cult of the ancient Israelites sacrificed children as a form of worship to the Canaanite god Moloch. These sacrifices were often called “burnt offerings” and are even described in the Hebrew Bible.

The most prominent reference to burnt offerings in the Hebrew Bible is found in the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. In this story, God commands Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a burnt offering.

Just before the slaughter, God stops Abraham and tells him that it was only a test to prove his faith. Then Abraham and Isaac offer a ram as a burnt offering.

While this story is quite popular, it does not confirm how often the Israelites performed ritual sacrifice, or whether the population actually engaged in human sacrifice at all outside of the Moloch cult.

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Human sacrifices buried in the foundation stones of a wall in ancient Megiddo, Palestine

7- Hawaiians

Believe it or not, the ancient Hawaiians performed ritual sacrifice quite frequently. This civilization believed that by sacrificing other people, they could earn the favor of Ku, the god of war.

They believed that by earning his favor, they would win all the battles ahead. These sacrifices took place in sacred temples dedicated to Ku called heiau.

The victims, who were often leaders of other tribes, were hung upside down on wooden stands and tortured for several hours. After the torture was over, the priests anointed the victims with sweat carefully collected during the torture process.

The victim was then beaten with clubs until her body became tender and her flesh was eaten (boiled or raw) by the priest and all the tribal leaders present.

8- Carthaginians

One of the richest and most powerful civilizations of antiquity, the Carthaginians were no strangers to ritual sacrifice. In particular, they were known for their cruel child sacrifices to earn the favor of the gods. Most of the victims were infants as they were considered the purest form of life that could be sacrificed to the gods.

Some historians argue that there were other reasons for these infant sacrifices besides religious ones. It is believed that because of their wealth and power, the Carthaginians were afraid of overpopulation, which could lead to the depletion of their resources.

Infant sacrifice was seemingly an easy way to keep the population in check, since abortion was not yet practiced.

Another reason for such sacrifices could be the wealth of the family. The more children there were in the family, the less money was distributed among the offspring. If the families were small, then their wealth remained intact, which may have encouraged some families to sacrifice their babies.

9- Celts

Prior to the conversion to Christianity in the 1st century AD, the Celts are believed to have performed a significant amount of ritual human sacrifice.

One of the texts written by Strabo, the Greek philosopher, describes human sacrifice as a central part of many Celtic rituals.

He claimed that they gathered with the Druids, the ancient Celtic priests, to sacrifice a man by striking him on the back of the head with a sword. The druids would then prophesy based on the “death spasms” of the victim, after which they would burn the body.

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Celtic wicker man filled with human sacrifice and set on fire, drawing from 1676

Other scholars dispute this record, arguing that there is little additional evidence that the Celts performed human sacrifice. However, at least one body has been found in the region, believed to have been sacrificed by strangulation, blows to the head, and slitting of the throat.

10- Mesopotamians

The last group on this list, the Mesopotamians, settled in present-day Iraq, Kuwait, and Syria between 8000-2000 BC.

During this large span of time, Mesopotamians often performed ritual sacrifices as a central part of funeral rituals for the elite. As with the Egyptians, servants, warriors, and other palace servants were sacrificed to continue working for their masters in the afterlife.

Based on the discovered remains, it is believed that these people were killed by a pike pierced through the head. After being sacrificed, their bodies were placed around the host. Often they were buried along with the tools needed to continue serving the owner, such as weapons or headgear.

Nothing to fear?

Fortunately, ritual human sacrifice is not as common as it used to be. According to modern scholars, only a few places still practice this type of sacrifice, and often it is done in secret. Thanks to modern laws and religious changes over time, human sacrifice is now viewed as murder throughout the world.


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