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Archaeologists Find First-Known Temple of ‘Flayed Lord’ in Mexico

Xipe Tótec, an important god to many pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican cults, was worshipped with a gruesome annual ritual: sacrificial victims, typically prisoners of war or slaves, were killed and then flayed, their skins donned by priests until they tightened and wore down.

Known as the “Flayed Lord,” Xipe appears in art from the period. Needless to say, it’s not hard to pick him out; according to the 16th-century ethnographer Diego Durán:

“He was dressed in the skin of a sacrificed man, and on his wrists hung the hands of the skin. In his right hand he carried a staff, at the end of which were attached rattles. In his left hand he carried a shield decorated with yellow and red feathers, and from the hand emerged a small red banner with feathers at the end. Upon his head was a red head-dress with a ribbon, also red. This was tied in an elaborate bow on his forehead, and in the middle of this bow was a golden jewel. On his back hung another headdress with three small banners protruding, from which were suspended three red bands in honor of the three names of this deity. He also wore an elaborate, splendid breechcloth, which seemed to be part of the human skin in which he was attire.”

Now, Richard Gonzales of NPR reports, archaeologists have uncovered what is believed to be the first known temple to Xipe in central Mexico’s Puebla state.

The discovery was made amidst the ruins of the Popoloca people, a pre-Hispanic group that was conquered by the Aztecs. Built by the Popolocas between 1000 and 1260 A.D., the temple sits within a larger complex known as Ndachjian-Tehuacan. Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History revealed that experts found two skull-like stone carvings depicting Xipe, each weighing more than 400 pounds, reports Jack Guy of CNN. They also discovered a stone trunk that had an extra hand dangling down from one arm—believed to be a representation of the god wearing a sacrificial victim’s skin.

Read entire article at Smithsonian.com