What Types of Historical Evidence is Valuable?
historians need evidence to conclude the past, but there is a massive amount of evidence available to everyone about any given topic. This brings up how we decide what is considered valuable evidence and what is not. As a topic in class, we have talked about human sacrifices that the Aztecs performed in the past. The evidence that was provided consisted of excerpts from a soldier in a conquering army, a document summarizing and explaining human sacrifice, and a document written challenging the idea that the Aztecs sacrificed other humans. Bernal Diaz was a soldier under Hermon Cortez, who at the time was conquering South America wrote about his experience with the Aztec and his witnessing to human sacrifices. Diaz’s writing is inserted into a document titled Excerpts from The True History of the Conquest of New Spain and in this document Diaz wrote “Hardly a day passed by that these people did not sacrifice from three to four, and even five Indians, tearing the hearts out of their bodies, to present them to the idols and smear the blood on the walls of the temple. The arms and legs of these unfortunate beings were then cut off and devoured”. This source shows the reader firsthand what the army witnessed, and since Diaz was a soldier who saw and recorded these events that make this source very valuable, due to this being a recorded event. Next is another valuable source to help prove a historical point and its title is Understanding Aztec Human Sacrifice. In this document author Patricia Anawalt writes about the history of human sacrifice and the different types of sacrifices made by the Aztecs. Anawalt writes about the history of why the Aztecs made sacrifices and she says “And in order for the sun to have the strength to bring day to his people, he had to be nourished continually with the most sacred of all foods- human blood.” Anawalt backs up all of her ideas and explanations with the history and stories of the Aztecs, here she explains what made the Aztecs believe that they needed to make sacrifices. This reasoning leads me to believe that this is yet another example of a source that would be valuable for researching the Aztecs and their ways of sacrificing. Finally, the last document is a challenge to the idea that Aztecs ever sacrificed other humans. Author Kurly Tlapoyawa who wrote Did Mexica Sacrifice Exist believes that human sacrifices were never made and that the Spaniards lied in order to have a valid reason for conquering them. In the document, Tlapoyawa writes “. But as we will soon discover, the idea that our ancestors practiced human sacrifice is not only absurd, it is a calculated lie which was carried out and promoted by the Spanish propaganda machine.” Tlapoyawa goes on to explain why they believe that it was impossible for human sacrifices to have been witnessed by Cortez. This document is an example of what I would deem not valuable due to Tlapoyawa refuting all the current evidence that points to and proves human sacrifices were an act that happened. Since Tlapoyawa believes that the Spaniards were lying about the sacrifices that would have to mean that they believed that Bernal Diaz, who witnessed and recorded his experiences with human sacrifices, was lying and made up his story. Sources that are valuable are almost always primary sources which consist of people who experienced an event and recorded their experiences. When people start to give opinions and write a second handle on a topic that deems that document a secondary source which can still be valuable, but historians have to consider many factors such as bias and possible parts of information being left out to sway people.