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 Museum Explorer

Warfare in
the Americas

Aztec knife

Length: 31.700 cm

AOA ST 399

Aztec knife

From: Mexico (Aztec/Mixtec)
Date: 15th-16th century AD

The Aztecs believed that the sun would not continue its daily journey through the sky unless it was given a regular supply of human blood. As the Aztecs conquered their neighbours, prisoners of war were in plentiful supply as sacrificial victims. They were held over the altar at the top of the temple while their hearts were cut out, then their bodies were flung down the steep temple steps.

This knife is very like the knives used to carry out these human sacrifices. However it would not have been strong enough to do this, so was probably used in ceremonies. The mosaic handle shows an Eagle Warrior, one of the Aztec's proudest fighters.