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One of the most famous and important surviving artifacts from the Aztec Empire reveals how they expected the apocalypse to proceed, as well as the cunning way they planned to avoid it.

If there's only one thing you probably know about the classic Mesoamerican myths about the apocalypse, it's probably this: the world would have ended in 2012, and the Mayans predicted it. Of course, as archaeologists (and, of course, calendar owners in the last decade) were quick to point out, this was never true - the Mayans did not even have a real myth about the end of the world. A few thousand kilometers further north, however, there was another civilization that was definitely worried about the coming apocalypse: the Aztecs.

In fact, they were so worried that they regularly sacrificed people in the hope of delaying the end for another year. At least that's what Susan Milbrat, curator of Latin American art and archaeology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, relies on the giant relic known as Sunstone: a 24-ton round basalt stone-calendar that she says has remained misunderstood for centuries.

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Although experts have long been of the opinion that the central image in the stone shows Tonatiu, the Aztec deity of the sun, Milbrat's 2017 article on the eclipse image suggests that the picture is probably more complex. This is not just the face of a god devouring a heart. The researcher believes the image illustrates the death of the Aztecs during an eclipse, an event that civilization believes will lead to a global and earth-shattering apocalypse.

And that shouldn't have happened on some distant, forgotten date. Based on the drawings around Tonatiu - nails clutching human hearts that hint at the existence of a monster of doubt; a circle of signs symbolizing the 260-day calendar used by priests to predict future events; fiery snakes, representing a constellation closely related to the Sun during the dry season - modern scientists are able to understand exactly when, according to the Aztecs, they expected the world to collapse: 4 Olin.

In other words, it's like everyone today knowing that it will end on August 19, say. It's just a date; It shows up every year and if we don't want this to be the last one we see, we should probably do something to stop our impending doom in the middle of summer vacation. You will hardly be surprised that for the Aztecs this thing was human sacrifice. The sunstone was "almost... as a stage for a public ritual," says Milbrat: every 4 Olyn, an important prisoner was sacrificed to the solar deity in a desperate attempt to stop the eclipse and keep the world going on for another year.

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It sounds creepy, but for a terrified population, it probably made sense. "Pregnant women stayed indoors [during eclipses] because they thought their children would be born with terrible deformities," Milbrath explains. "Most of the details of how the Aztecs handled solar eclipses are not well known, but they were definitely trying to scare away the monster they thought was eating the Sun."

In fact, although the empire is best known today for its reputation as a bloodthirsty state — for example, for ritual human sacrifice and the ball game that sometimes ended with the beheading of the players by the losing team — Milbrat believes that the real lesson of the sinister new interpretation of the Sunstone is scientific rather than savage.

Yes, it is likely that the Aztecs had a significantly worse feeling about the future than people in today's societies. But they "were more adept at astronomy than people think," Milbrath said.

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If you want proof of this, just look at how cleverly they have approached in their desire to avoid the apocalypse. When they created their mythology, they made sure that 4 Olin would never interce with an eclipse in their world, Milbrath points out. "The possibility of targeted manipulation should not be overlooked."

Source: IFLScience