I always wonder: Did anyone in those societies object to this? Or did they all just nod along and hand over their family members to have their hearts ripped out?
I have a hunch that professionals would consider me naïve for even asking the question . . . but, well, Spartacus did not play along with his culture’s rules about slavery. He was an example of dissent, two thousand years ago in a complex society with a strong ruling class. Other ancient societies might have had dissent, also.
Here is a wonderful blog post about apparent ritual sacrifices, by a grad student named Katy Meyers:
She writes about an excavation of a thousand-year-old site, in Peru:
“The interpretation of the site is that the pyramid is a funeral monument to an elite royal with a mass sacrifice of humans in his honor.”
Meyers titles her blog Bones Don’t Lie, which reminds me:
We would not be able to learn about any dissenters in these ancient societies as easily as we can learn about those who apparently abided by the rules, because, for one thing, it was the people who abided by the rules whose bones we find in the mass burials. If twenty families handed over their kids to be slaughtered to accompany the dead king into the underworld, archaeologists may dig up those bones and conjecture about what happened; but if one family said “screw that” and ran away into the rainforest to become freethinking outlaws, archaeologists would never be able to tell.
Also, it is the people who made the rules, and abided by the rules, who left behind written evidence. Meyers writes:
“Also, there is clear iconography on the pyramid showing sacrificial processions of young females.”
Now, there may also have been a few families who refused to have their daughters in the processions; but they would not have had the power to leave carvings on monuments. Perhaps after they ran away into the rainforest, they passed down their beliefs orally for a few generations; Dad took his daughter on his knee and told her, “Daughter, we live out here in the middle of nowhere because back in town the prince wanted to kill you and bury you for his dad’s funeral, and I took exception to that;” but he would have left behind no carving about this for archaeologists to discover.
What do you think – too naïve? Did NO parents think that way, back then?
Again going back to ancient Rome, I remember reading once about a graffiti caricature of a Roman which archaeologists believe was drawn by a slave. There we have it, again: dissent. Maybe the odd ancient commoner in Peru, now long-forgotten to history, also dissented.
This Big Question of mine is why I wrote about the ancient Mayan, Zucul, in my story, “Pyramid Spleen.” You don’t need to read it, now that you’ve read this; but anyway, I wonder if there were people like him. Is it human nature to dissent?