Human Sacrifice Is Linked to Social Hierarchies

Saying they found "a darker link between religion and the evolution of modern hierarchical societies" than has been previously suggested, a group of scientists say ritual human sacrifice promoted stratified social systems – and helped to sustain inherited class systems once they were established. After comparing dozens of societies, the researchers found that ritualized human sacrifice was far more common in highly stratified societies than it was in egalitarian societies. Noting the high level of overlap between religious and political sectors in the societies, the scientists write, "human sacrifice may have been co-opted by elites as a divinely sanctioned means of social control."

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