The Point: Noblesse Savage

Fresh evidence against the Noble Savage theory.

Jean Jacques Rousseau taught that the noble savage lived in harmony with nature and one another, until corrupted by modern civilization. It’s fashionable among academics, who charge European explorers like Cortez with exaggerating the accounts of Aztec human sacrifices and their terror against neighboring tribes.

But under Mexico City, archeologists uncovered remains of the infamous skull tower that greeted residents and foes at the Aztec capital. One rack alone had 130,000 skulls, confirming the blood-soaked accounts of pre-European culture in the New World.

Rousseau had it backwards: Society doesn’t corrupt human beings. Human beings corrupt society—all societies, in fact. Ancient or modern, ritual sacrifice or abortion, Jeremiah was right, “The heart of man is desperately wicked. . . ” Cultures that recognize human rights and dignity are the exception in history, not the rule. The normal state of affairs since the Fall is ignoble savagery.

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