I found this to be very interesting, especially in light of what I wrote in TIA about the Aztec practice of human sacrifice:
Before being chosen as sacrificial victims, the boy and girl had followed a typical peasant diet. This raises the possibility that they were chosen from among the Incas’ conquered subjects and killed not only to pacify the mountain gods, but also to instil terror and respect for an imperial power. “It looks to us as though the children were led up to the summit shrine in the culmination of a year-long rite, drugged and then left to succumb to exposure,” said Timothy Taylor of the University of Bradford, one of the lead researchers.
“Although some may wish to view these grim deaths within the context of indigenous belief systems, we should not forget that the Inca were imperialists too and the treatment of such peasant children may have served to instil fear and facilitate social control over remote mountain areas.”
Now, I certainly don’t deny the religious aspects of historical human sacrifice, it would be intellectually irresponsible to even try to do that, to say nothing of how it would contradict my own spiritual worldview. But I’ve noticed that although Mesoamerican human sacrifice took an overtly religious form, mass human sacrifice tends to correspond much more strongly with imperialism than it does with religion. I won’t be surprised if scholars eventually conclude that at least for the Aztecs and the Incas, human sacrifice was less a form of worship than it was a means of political terrorism designed to keep their more numerous subject peoples in line.