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DNA Analysis Reveals Shocking Truth About Maya Sacrificial Victims

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Image Credit: Cancun Adventures

Researchers have discovered startling new information regarding the victims of ritual sacrifices in the ancient Maya city of Chichén Itzá according to a ground-breaking study that was published in the journal Nature. The ancient DNA of 64 individuals shows that, in contrast to popular thought, all of the victims were young boys, many of whom were related.

Debunking Old Myths
The Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico is home to Chichén Itzá, whose name has been synonymous with human sacrifice due to the discovery of many bones in underground tunnels, temples, and holy sinkholes. It has long been assumed that young girls made up the majority of the victims. Recent research, however, paints a more nuanced picture, implying that infants as well as adults and women were sacrificed.

The modern ponder, driven by Rodrigo Barquera from the Max Planck Foundation for Developmental Human Studies, includes a startling layer to this account. The examination uncovered that all 64 people, whose remains were found in an underground chamber, were youthful boys. This finding was shocking to the analysts, who had expected a non-sex-biased burial or a prevalence of young ladies based on conventional archeological translations.

The Role of Genetic Analysis
Recognizing the sex of child skeletons through bone examination alone is challenging. Whereas certain bones can demonstrate the sex of grown-up skeletons, these contrasts as it were ended up clear amid adolescence. Subsequently, hereditary examination becomes pivotal. Christina Warinner, a co-author of the consider, emphasized the significance of antiquated DNA in giving more precise bits of knowledge, particularly in tropical districts where DNA debasement is common.

Large-scale genomic studies are now possible thanks to recent developments in ancient DNA technology, which have made it possible for scientists to extract and sequence even minute amounts of DNA. Mesoamerican archaeology is currently utilising this technology, providing a deeper comprehension of the region’s past.

Discoveries in Chichén Itzá
Remains from a water chultún, an underground storage chamber excavated in 1967 approximately 400 meters from the sacred sinkhole in Chichén Itzá, were the subject of the investigation. According to radiocarbon dating, the chamber was in use for 500 years, and the majority of the analyzed remains date from AD 800 to 1000 when Chichén Itzá was at the height of its political strength.

The DNA analysis showed that all the victims were local boys, mostly between 3 and 6 years old, and a significant number were closely related. The presence of two sets of twins, siblings, and cousins among the victims suggested that related male children were specifically selected for sacrifice.

Implications of the Findings
Finding closely connected people among the youths who were sacrificed suggests a sophisticated ceremonial practice. Uninvolved in the work, bioarchaeologist Vera Tiesler expressed amazement at discovering family members in a deposit utilized for such a long time. This implies that contrary to popular belief, the process of choosing sacrificial candidates was more methodical and intentional.

The significance of twins in Maya mythology—especially in the “Hero Twins” tale, in which two brothers go to the underworld to exact revenge on their father—was also brought to light by the study. The choice of the twin boys for sacrifice is further illuminated by this cultural background.

Sacrificial Methods and Cultural Context
Although the precise techniques of sacrifice are still unknown, historical records point to acts such as heart removal and beheading. The ancient Maya, according to Rodrigo Barquera, had a different perspective on sacrifice, viewing it as a chance rather than a loss.

Christina Warinner underlined that this research offers a more comprehensive understanding of the victims’ identities and their linkages to contemporary Maya societies as it is the first thorough DNA investigation of ancient Maya bones. When the researchers compared the ancient DNA to the modern-day Tixcacaltuyub people’, they discovered a strong genetic connection. The local population was excited to learn about their ancestry and welcomed this revelation.

Historical and Genetic Legacy
The investigation also looked at how past epidemics have influenced the genetic composition of contemporary Maya communities. The terrible 16th-century cocoliztli epidemic may have been exacerbated by genetic variations that the researchers found to be resistant to infections like salmonella in modern communities.

Co-author of the paper María Ermila Moo-Mezeta, a Mayan, emphasized the value of conserving the Maya people’s historical memory. This study not only clarifies historical customs but also links the genetic resistance of modern Maya populations to historical trauma.

This study represents a significant advancement in our understanding of ancient Maya rituals and their lasting impact on modern populations. The unexpected findings challenge long-standing myths and open new avenues for research into the complex social and cultural practices of the Maya civilization. As technological advancements in genetic analysis continue to evolve, they promise to reveal even more about the rich history and enduring legacy of the Maya people.

This story was originally featured on CNN

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