FIGURE 10. Naked warriors tumble down stairs like sacrificial victims, from Cells 9 and 16 of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala.
As the pages of the Matrícula de Tributos and the cells of the Lienzo de Tlaxcala make clear, Mesoamerican warriors dressed up for battle in spectacular costumes. But when a warrior was captured, he was stripped of his finery, reduced to nakedness (a tradition of shaming documented at least as far back as the Classic-period Maya).11 As discussed in the Clothing: Skirt, Huipil Nahua tutorial, clothing played a central role in crafting the Central Mexican self. Removing someone’s clothing by force was a way of taking away part of who they were—of stripping them down both physically and psychologically. This probably explains the scenes of almost-naked men falling down temple stairways in Cells 9 and 16 of the Lienzo (Figure 10). These undressed, dead warriors have been socially stripped of their finery, killed atop temple-pyramids, and then rolled down their stairways to the open plazas below. According to alphabetic records, this was the fate of warriors who were sacrificed on top of the Great Temple in the center of Tenochtitlan.
11 Houston, Stuart, and Taube 2006, 202-207.