The discovery comes from a new analysis of 5,000 bone fragments found in the ancient city of Teotihuacan, a large archaeological site about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City (see map).
Femurs (thigh bones), tibias (shinbones), and human skulls were transformed into household items shortly after death, noted team leader Abigail Meza Peñaloza of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“The Teotihuacanos used different stones as knives to finely remove the flesh and muscles from the bones,” Meza Peñaloza said. The bodies had to be as fresh as possible, she added, because after a person dies, his or her bone quickly becomes too fragile to sculpt.
Rebecca Storey, a Teotihuacan expert at the University of Houston, said that making utensils out of human bone fits with the ancient culture.