Archaeologists discover array of Aztec artifacts beneath Mexico City | History News

Discovery of a vast cache of Aztec ritual offerings under downtown Mexico City, on the steps of what would have been the empire’s holiest sanctuary, offers new insight into pre-Hispanic religious rites and political propaganda.

Sealed in stone boxes five centuries ago at the foot of the temple, the contents of a box found in the exact center of what was a circular The ceremonial scene broke records for the number of sea offerings from the Pacific Ocean and Gulf Coast, including more than 165 once bright red starfish and more than 180 full corral branches.

Archaeologists believe Aztec priests carefully layered these offerings in the box inside the raised platform for a ceremony likely attended by thousands of delighted onlookers amid the thunder of drums.

“Pure imperial propaganda,” said Leonardo Lopez Lujan, chief archaeologist at the Proyecto Templo Mayor of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which oversees the excavations, of the likely sight.

In the same box, archaeologists previously found a sacrificed jaguar dressed as a warrior associated with the Aztec patron Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and the sun, before the Covid-19 pandemic forced a pause on excavations for more than two years.

Previously unreported details include the discovery last month of a sacrificed eagle held in the claws of the jaguar, as well as miniature wooden spears and a reed shield found next to the west-facing feline, which had copper bells tied around his ankles.

The half-excavated rectangular box, dating to the reign of Emperor Ahuitzotl, who reigned from 1486 to 1502, now shows a mysterious bulge in the middle under the jaguar skeleton, indicating something solid underneath.

“Everything under the jaguar is something extremely important,” said Lopez Lujan. “We are expecting a great discovery.”

Lopez Lujan, who is leading the excavation of what is today known as the Templo Mayor, believes the box may contain an urn containing the cremated remains of Ahuitzotl, the emperor whose military campaigns extended his empire in modern-day Guatemala while connecting Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. .

But he says at least another year of excavation is needed to settle the matter.

An archaeologist excavates an Aztec ritual offering
An archaeologist excavates an Aztec ritual offering in Mexico City, November 15, 2022 [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Aztec worldview

To date, no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found despite more than 40 years of excavations around the Templo Mayor, where more than 200 boxes of offerings have been found.

The temple was as tall as a 15-story building before being razed in the years following the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521, with the rubble serving to mask many of the later finds.

Along with the central offering containing the jaguar, two additional boxes have recently been identified alongside it, both due to open in the coming weeks.

More ferocious animals dressed as warriors, perhaps adorned with jade, turquoise, and gold, are likely.

The aquatic offerings covering the jaguar may represent the aquatic underworld where the Aztecs believed the sun set each night, or perhaps part of a king’s journey after death.

Joyce Marcus, an archaeologist specializing in ancient Mexico at the University of Michigan, says the newly discovered offerings shed light on the Aztec “worldview, ritual economy, and the obvious links between imperial expansion, warfare, military prowess, and the role of ruler” in ceremonies that sanctified conquests and allowed tributes to flow into the capital.

“Each offering box adds another piece of the puzzle,” she said.

Finally, the skulls of a dozen sacrificed children aged between one and six were also discovered in a nearby pit, dating from several decades earlier but also linked to the god Huitzilopochtli.

The information obtained from the excavations goes well beyond incomplete accounts from the colonial era that were also colored by the European invaders’ own justifications for the conquest, according to Diana Moreiras, an Aztec scholar at the University of Colombia. -British.

“We really get to know the Aztecs on their own terms,” ​​she said, “because we’re actually looking at what they did, not what the Spaniards thought of them.”

An archaeologist excavates an Aztec ritual offering in Mexico City
This Aztec ritual offering is believed to be associated with the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *