We all know the ancients used to sacrifice people. Some practices, like the Aztec removal of a victim’s heart, are today infamous. But this barely scratches the surface of the gruesome rituals our ancestors used to perform. Over the past few years, a number of important discoveries have shown our forebears were even creepier than we thought.
10. The Hand-Decorated Skull of Ancient Brazil
Ritual decapitation was a gruesome fact of life in the New World. Warriors in South America would display their victims’ severed heads as a warning to others, and entire walls of skulls have been found in old Aztec areas. In 2015, though, scientists discovered one case of exceptional brutality. In ancient Brazil, a man had been decapitated and then had his severed head decorated with amputated hands.
The remains were found in a part of Brazil called Lagoa Santa which is known for archaeological discoveries. Even so, this find was disturbingly unique. At some point 9,000 years ago, a local tribe cut off someone’s head, then buried their skull along with a pair of severed hands. The left hand was attached to the right side of the face and buried pointing upwards; the right one was attached to the left side and buried pointing down. No one knows why this was done or what it might mean. All we can say for sure is that the victim was a local. Chemical analysis shows it was likely a member of the tribe that killed him. What his crime was, or even if he’d committed one, is a question we’ll likely never know the answer to.