Mayan civilization human sacrifice
Each year in Dahomey (now known as Ghana) within West Africa, there was a large celebration that involved gift-giving discussion amongst leaders and, incidentally, large amounts of human sacrifice.
Many slaves of the area were killed at this time, along with war captives and criminals, to honor the deceased kings of Dahomey. The victims were generally sacrificed by decapitation. Decapitation was utilized so much at these events that the ceremony’s name (Xwetanu) literally translates to “yearly head business”. 8
Thugs with Handkerchiefs
The “thuggees” – or as we would say nowadays, “thugs” – were a fanatical religious group in India who were infamous for their ritualistic assassinations, carried out in the name of the Hindu Goddess Kali. These killers traveled in groups throughout India for hundreds of years, performing their rituals in order to please their Goddess.
In an attempt to find victims for their sacrifices, the Thugs would join groups of travellers, gaining their confidence before surprising them in the night and strangling them with a handkerchief or a noose. The bodies would then be robbed of their valuable possessions, and buried. 7
Leaps of Faith – or Did the Mayans Push Them?
The Mayans held a strong belief in a divine power, which they thought was contained deep within limestone sinkholes (or “cenotes” as they called them). They believed these to be portals that led into the underworld, and would cast their own people into them. According to their beliefs, those thrown into the cenote would not die. Of course, they were never seen again either.
Recent discoveries of human remains in these areas tell a different story than what the Mayans would have had us believe. Fractured skeletons of old and young people from those times don’t paint a portrait of enlightened victims. 6
In the Name of Architecture
Although human sacrifice was usually performed for ancestral deities in early Chinese civilizations, there were other motives for such offerings. One such alleged variation in sacrificial purpose was to strengthen a structure or a building.
One of the most famous examples of this was the sacrifice of the crown-prince of Ts’ai after he was caught in a battle which brought ruin upon his kingdom. He was sacrificed with the intention of strengthening a dam.
There are many early Roman references to the extensive practice of human sacrifice by the Celtic Druids. Caesar himself explained that the slaves and dependents of high-ranking Gauls would usually be burnt alive, along with the body of their deceased master.