January 10, 2009 Joanne Baron "Noble or Savage? Western Representations of Human Sacrifice among the Aztecs"

            In the 16th Century, the Western world came in contact with the Mesoamerican world. Ever since this initial confrontation, Westerners have been writing about and representing the indigenous peoples they encountered. These representations are not all the same, however. They have shifted with time, country, and context. The presentation by Ms. Baron examined these varying representations, focusing on their treatment of Aztec human sacrifice. Although her research is just beginning, Ms. Baron presented a survey of many of the early Spanish, as well as later, writers on the subject. She addressed the varying descriptions of the rites, estimates of the numbers of victims sacrificed, and reasons reported for the sacrifices.  The estimates in numbers of sacrifices reported showed huge divergences, ranging from possibly as low as fifty a year per temple, to as high as 2000 to 8000 a day and 60,000 in one year.  An animated discussion followed the talk, and Ms. Baron plans to continue to pursue her interest in the subject, while completing her PhD work on the Classic Maya.
            Joanne Baron is a 3rd year PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her main area of interest is Classic Maya political organization, but this talk explores some of her other recent interests, such as Aztec ethnohistory and popular representations of the past. She has worked in Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras, and her dissertation project will focus on La Corona, a site in Western Peten, where she worked under the direction of Drs. Marcello Canuto and Tomas Barrientos in May, 2008. This past summer, Joanne worked in the Copan Valley Regional Development Project, where she was directed by Dr. Ricardo Agurcia Fasquelle.

back to home page