• By The Financial District


In 1520, Indigenous people in Zultépec in what is now Mexico captured a Spanish caravan of about 450 people. Over the next eight months, they ritually sacrificed all of the captives and likely ate them, archaeologists recently discovered, Mindy Weisberger reported for Live Science.

The Spanish retaliated viciously, with soldiers attacking the town and butchering hundreds in just one day. Spanish soldier Gonzalo de Sandoval led the attack under orders from Hernán Cortés, leader of Spain's invasion of Mexico, and the victims in Zultépec were mostly women and children, said researchers with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Many of the women and children were slaughtered while hiding in their homes or while trying to escape the carnage, INAH representatives said in a statement. Their findings represent more than three decades of work at the site where Zultépec once stood, revealing new details about the violent acts committed on both sides.

Zultépec's residents at the time were Acolhua, a Mesoamerican ethnic group and a sister culture to the Aztecs.

Their captives from the caravan included European men, women and children; Maya, Tlaxcaltec and Totonac people who were Spanish allies; and Cuban people of African and Indigenous descent, Mexico News Daily reported.

After the caravan's capture, the Acolhua sacrificed people to Xiuhtecuhtli according to dates on the Acolhua ritual calendar, the researchers said.

However, during the months when the caravan travelers were held captive, the Acolhuas modified their buildings to host the "foreigners," adding walls and European-style ovens, according to the statement.

But these comforts were short-lived, and the last of the captives was sacrificed in January or February of 1521.

Around this time, a hill near Zultépec became known locally as "Tecoaque," or "where they were eaten" in the Nahuatl language of central Mexico, suggesting that people in Zultépec ate the captives.