A Summary of the Movie "Aztec Massacre"

by Jo Jackson Google
The Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their gods.

The Aztecs offered human sacrifices to their gods.

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"Aztec Massacre" is a 60 minute documentary produced by the Public Broadcasting Service as part of its "Secrets Of The Dead" series. Directed by Karen Kelly, the documentary was first aired in April 2008 and was released on video on May 27, 2008. It contains a mix of interviews, actors re-enacting historical events and computer-generated images woven together by a narrator. The experts interviewed include anthropologists, warfare and forensic experts and other scientists.

Mass Grave

The documentary begins with a description of an archaeological find at Zultepec, about 60 miles from Mexico City. A mass grave of at least 400 bodies had remained undisturbed there for around 500 years until archaelogists began exploring the site in the 1990s. Around 1500 was the time when the Aztecs rules Mesoamerica, and the Spanish arrived on the Gulf Coast of Mexico in 1519. At least 40 of the bodies appear to be European. The remainder of the program pieces together what happened here.

What The Bones Reveal

The mass grave contains dismembered bodies with vertebra, pelvic and femur bones missing from the skeletons. All the bodies show evidence of ritual killing, where the chest was opened up with a knife and the bodies were mutilated . More than two-dozen skulls are pierced through the temples. suggesting they were hung as trophies. At least 40 of the bodies are European and 10 of those are European females. Cortes had an all-male crew, but the second party from Spain had women with them, which helps date the mass grave.


The first Spanish in Mexico were led by Hernán Cortés and the Aztecs were ruled by the powerful Moctezuma. The documentary re-enacts how the Aztecs believed Cortes was fulfilling an ancient prophesy as a returning god, gave him precious gifts and entertained the Spanish with lavish gifts. The Aztecs practised human sacrifice and the documentary narrates how Cortés wrote about how the victim's chest was opened while they were alive and their still beating heart offered as sacrifices. Later the Aztecs rose against the Spanish.


Because history is written by the victors, there is an impression that the Aztecs simply let the Spanish take them over. The evidence suggests instead that they fought hard to resist conquest. The findings at Zultepec, plus evidence in ancient documents, show that the Spanish were captured and offered to the Aztec gods, along with natives from local tribes who were helping the Spanish against the Aztecs. The PBS website has some interesting background facts and also viewer comments that question the historical accuracy.

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