A tzompantli is a type of wooden rack or palisade documented in several Mesoamerican civilizations, which was used for the public display of human skulls, typically those of war captives or other sacrificial victims. Mesoamerica or Meso-America (Mesoamérica is a Region extending approximately from central Mexico to Honduras and Nicaragua, defined Human sacrifice is the act of Homicide (the Killing of one or several Human beings in the context of a Religious ritual ( ritual killing
It was most commonly erected as a linearly-arranged series of vertical posts connected by a series of horizontal crossbeams. The skulls were pierced or threaded laterally along these horizontal stakes. An alternate arrangement, more common in the Maya regions, was for the skulls to be impaled on top of one another along the vertical posts.
Tzompantli are known chiefly from their depiction in Late Postclassic (13th -16th centuries) and post-Conquest (mid-16th -17th centuries) codices, contemporary accounts of the conquistadores, and several other inscriptions. A codex ( Latin for block of wood, Book; plural codices) is a book in the format used for modern books with separate pages normally This article is about the Spanish explorer soldiers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuriesfor other uses see Conquistador (disambiguation A Conquistador However, there is evidence that a tzompantli-like structure has been excavated from the Proto-Classic Zapotec civilization at the La Coyotera, Oaxaca site, dated from c. The Zapotec civilization was an indigenous Pre-Columbian civilization that flourished in the Valley of Oaxaca of southern Mesoamerica. The Free and Sovereign State of Oaxaca ( Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca), in Spanish phonemically /oa'xaka/ named for its largest city, is one of the 2nd century BCE to 3rd century CE. The 2nd century BC started the first day of 200 BC and ended the last day of 101 BC. 
Tzompantli are also noted in other Mesoamerican pre-Columbian cultures, such as the Toltec and Mixtec. The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences Toltec-style Vessel 1jpg|thumb|250px|right|A rather expressive orange-ware clay vessel in the Toltec style The Mixtec (or Mixteca) are an indigenous Mesoamerican people inhabiting the Mexican states of Oaxaca, Guerrero and Puebla
Other examples are indicated from Maya civilization sites such as Uxmal and other Puuc region sites of the Yucatán, dating from around the late 9th century decline of the Maya Classical Era. The Maya civilization is a Mesoamerican Civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the Pre-Columbian Americas Uxmal ( Yucatec Maya: Óoxmáal is a large Pre-Columbian ruined city of the Maya civilization in the state of Yucatán, Mexico. PuucChunjujujpg|right|thumb|325px|Puuc building at Chunhuhub, Campeche, as drawn by Frederick Catherwood, 1841]][[Image UxmalCornerChacMask Yucatán is one of the 31 states of Mexico, located on the north of the Yucatán Peninsula. The 9th century is the period from 801 to 900 in accordance with the Julian calendar in the Christian / Common Era. Mesoamerican chronology divides the history of Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica into a number of named successive eras or periods from the earliest evidence of human habitation A particularly fine and intact inscription example survives at the extensive Chichen Itza site. Chichen Itza (tʃiːˈtʃɛn iːˈtsɑː from Chi'ch'èen Ìitsha' "At the mouth of the well of the Itza " is a 
There are numerous depictions of tzompantli in Aztec codices, dating from around the time or shortly after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, such as the Durán Codex, Ramírez Codex and Codex Borgia. Aztec codices (singular Codex) are Books written by Pre-Columbian and colonial-era Aztecs The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Diego Durán (c 1537&mdash1588 was a Dominican friar best known for his authorship of one of the earliest Western books on the history and culture of the Aztecs The Ramírez Codex (also known as the Tovar Codex) is a post- conquest Codex from the late 16th century entitled Relación del origen de los indios The Codex Borgia (or Codex Yoalli Ehecatl) is a Mesoamerican ritual and divinatory Manuscript. During the stay of Cortes' expedition in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (initially as guest-captives of the Emperor Moctezuma II, before the battle which would lead to the conquest), they reported a wooden tzompantli altar adorned with the skulls from recent sacrifices. There are some towns in Mexico which are spelled "Tenochtitlán" like San Lorenzo Moctezuma, also known as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Motēuczōma Xōcoyōtzin|mo Within the complex of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan (Templo Mayor) itself, a relief in stucco depicted these sacrifices; the remains of this relief have survived and may now be seen in the ruins in the Zócalo of present-day Mexico City. The Templo Mayor (commonly known by this Spanish name meaning " Great Temple " was the main temple of the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water In many cities in Mexico, a zócalo is the main plaza or square set in the heart of the town Mexico City (in Spanish: Ciudad de México, México DF, México or simply Méjico) is the Capital city of Mexico
According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo's eye-witness account (The Conquest of New Spain) written several decades after the event, after Cortes' expedition was forced to make their initial retreat from Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs erected a makeshift tzompantli to display the severed heads of men and horses they had captured from the invaders. Bernal Díaz del Castillo (1496 &ndash 1584 was a Conquistador, who wrote an eyewitness account of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards under Hernán Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España (The Truthful History of the Conquest of New Spain is the first-person narrative of Bernal Díaz del Castillo This taunting is also depicted in an Aztec codex which relates the story, and the subsequent battles which led to the eventual capture of the city by the Spanish forces and their allies.
Based on numbers given by the Conquistador Andrés de Tapia and Fray Diego Durán, Bernard Ortiz de Montellano has calculated that there were at most 60,000 skulls on the Hueyi Tzompantli (great Skullrack) of Tenochtitlan. Diego Durán (c 1537&mdash1588 was a Dominican friar best known for his authorship of one of the earliest Western books on the history and culture of the Aztecs There were at least five more skullracks in Tenochtitlan but by all accounts they were much smaller.
Apart from their use to display the skulls of ritualistically-executed war captives, tzompantli often occur in the contexts of Mesoamerican ballcourts, which were widespread throughout the region's civilizations and sites. The Mesoamerican ballgame was a Sport with ritual associations played for over 3000 years by the Pre-Columbian peoples of Mesoamerica. In these contexts it appears that the tzompantli was used to display the losers' heads of this often highly-ritualised game. New research seems to indicate it is not the losers' heads that were taken, but the winners' heads. It was an honor to be the more worthy sacrifice. Not all games resulted in this outcome, however, and for those that did it is surmised that these participants were often notable captives. Tula, the former Toltec capital, has a well-preserved tzompantli inscription on its ballcourt. Tula is a town of 28432 (2005 census in the southwestern part of the state of Hidalgo in central Mexico, some 100 km to the north-northwest of Mexico City Toltec-style Vessel 1jpg|thumb|250px|right|A rather expressive orange-ware clay vessel in the Toltec style
The association with ballcourts is also reflected in the Popol Vuh, the famous K'iche' Maya religious, mythological and cultural account. For other uses see Popol Vuh (disambiguation The Popol Vuh ( K'iche' for "Council Book" or "Book of the Community" This page is about the Native American people for other uses the dish see Quiché (disambiguation. When Hun Hunahpu, father of the Maya Hero Twins, was killed by the lords of the Underworld (Xibalba), his head was hung in a gourd tree next to a ballcourt. According to the Popol Vuh, Hun-Hunahpu 'One-Hunahpu' (a calendrical name is the father of the Maya hero twins, Hunahpu and Ixbalanque The Maya Hero Twins are the central figures of a narrative included within the the colonial Quiché document called Popol Vuh, and constituting the oldest Maya myth to have been In Maya mythology Xibalba (ʃɨbɒlbə roughly translated as "Place of fear" is the name of the Underworld, ruled by Mayan Spirits of Disease This article refers to the Dried fruit shell For the alternative country musical group of a similar name see The Gourds. The gourd tree is a clear representation of a tzompantli, and the image of skulls in trees as if they were fruits is also a common indicator of a tzompantli and the associations with some of the game's metaphorical interpretations.
The name comes from the Classical Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, however it is also commonly applied to similar structures depicted in other civilizations. Classical Nahuatl (also known as Aztec, and simply Nahuatl) is a term used to describe the variants of the Nahuatl language that were spoken in the Aztec is a term used to refer to certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who achieved political Its precise etymology is uncertain, although its general interpretation is "skull rack" or "wall of skulls". Etymology is the study of the History of Words &mdash when they entered a language from what source and how their form and meaning have changed over time It may be seen to be a compound of the Nahuatl words tzontecomatl ("skull"; from tzontli or tzom- "hair", "scalp" and tecomatl ("gourd" or "container"), and pamitl ("banner"). This article refers to the Dried fruit shell For the alternative country musical group of a similar name see The Gourds. This derivation has been ascribed to explain the depictions in several codices which associate these with banners; however, F. Karttunen has proposed that pantli means merely "row" or "wall".