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SECRETS OF THE DEAD: Aztec Massacre

Airs Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Aztec war paint worn by warriors.

Throughout recent times, historians have believed that when the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Aztec territory in the 15th century, they were welcomed as returning light-skinned gods by the Aztecs, who put up little resistance to their conquest. But now, a new find outside of Mexico City is turning history on its head.

Aztec statue
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Above: Aztec statue

The discovery: more than 400 bodies, many of which show signs of having been mutilated and even eaten. More important, more than 40 of the bodies appear to be European, indicating that the Aztecs not only resisted the invaders, they sacrificed them to their gods, pulling their still-beating hearts from chests and stringing their heads (along with the heads of their horses) on wooden skull racks for public display.

Exploring the archeology of the site, the forensics of the bones and beautiful but grotesque codices that document the events, "Aztec Massacre" paints a new picture of the violent relations between the Aztecs and the conquistadors and rewrites much of what we thought we knew about the Aztec civilization.

SECRETS OF THE DEAD is on Facebook.

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Secrets Of The Dead: Aztec Massacre

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Above: A grisly discovery of more than 400 mutilated bodies in Mexico is turning history on its head. "Aztec Massacre" paints a new picture of the violent relations between the Aztecs and the Conquistadors and rewrites much of what we thought we knew about the Aztec civilization.