Art: Hard People, Stark Beauty

Bloody and brutal, the Aztecs produced powerful art. The Guggenheim offers the biggest survey ever

For sheer barbaric brutality, it was hard to beat the Aztecs. They believed their gods required human blood and hearts as sustenance, and they faithfully delivered. Sacrificial victims--often captured enemy warriors--were spread-eagled before temples, and their hearts, still beating, were cut out with flint knives, after which their blood was collected in bowls and their limbs eaten. The Aztecs also offered up their own blood by painfully mutilating their tongues, ears, legs and penises. Even their games were lethal. In one, players tried to move stone balls in the direction they thought the sun was heading. The player who guessed wrong...

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