The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice on a large scale to ensure the continuation of their world. Early Spanish chroniclers wrote of thousands of skulls displayed on a rack, named the tzompantli, in front of the Templo Mayor in the Aztec capital. The existence of the tzompantli has been called into dispute over the past few decades, but recent excavations have yielded the remains of the skull rack and one of the towers of skulls that accompanied it.
"All premodern societies make some kind of offering," says Vera Tiesler, a bioarchaeologist at the Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán in Mérida, Mexico. "And in many societies, if not all, the most valuable sacrifice is human life."
The Hohokam that I write about appear to have restricted their offerings to food and drink and crafted goods, as well as activities such as dancing and singing. But they may, at various times in their history, have kept the bones of significant ancestors in the house or buried them under the floor to have those friendly spirits look after and protect the family.
Bones and blood can have great symbolic power. That makes them interesting to write about: what might certain burial practices have meant to the people who performed them?
I had my mother teach me to read when I was four, and I've never stopped. Now I can play with words all day long... it's the best job in the world.