An in depth cache of Aztec ritual choices discovered beneath downtown Mexico City, off the steps of what would have been the empire’s holiest shrine, gives new perception into pre-Hispanic spiritual rites and political propaganda.
Sealed in stone bins 5 centuries in the past on the foot of the temple, the contents of 1 field discovered within the precise centre of what was a round ceremonial stage has shattered data for the variety of sea choices from each the Pacific Ocean and off Mexico’s gulf coast, together with greater than 165 once-bright-red starfish and upwards of 180 full corral branches.
Archaeologists imagine Aztec clergymen fastidiously layered these choices within the field inside the elevated platform for a ceremony probably attended by hundreds of rapt spectators amid the thunderclap of drums.
“Pure imperial propaganda,” Leonardo Lopez Lujan, a lead archaeologist on the Proyecto Templo Mayor of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is overseeing the dig, stated of the probably spectacle.
In the identical field, archaeologists beforehand discovered a sacrificed jaguar dressed like a warrior related to the Aztec patron Huitzilopochtli, the conflict and solar god, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic compelled a pause on excavations for greater than two years.
Previously unreported particulars embrace final month’s discovery of a sacrificed eagle held within the clutches of the jaguar, together with miniature wood spears and a reed protect discovered subsequent to the west-facing feline, which had copper bells tied round its ankles.
The half-excavated rectangular field, courting to the reign of emperor Ahuitzotl, who dominated from 1486 to 1502, now reveals a mysterious bulge within the center beneath the jaguar’s skeleton, indicating one thing stable under.
“Whatever is underneath the jaguar is something enormously important,” stated Lopez Lujan. “We’re expecting a great discovery.”
Lopez Lujan, who heads excavations at what’s right now generally known as the Templo Mayor, thinks the field might comprise an urn holding the cremated stays of Ahuitzotl, the emperor whose navy campaigns expanded the empire to modern-day Guatemala whereas linking Mexico’s Pacific and gulf coasts.
But he says at the least one other 12 months of digging is required to settle the query.
To date, no Aztec royal tomb has ever been discovered regardless of greater than 40 years of digging across the Templo Mayor, the place greater than 200 choices bins have been discovered.
The temple towered as excessive as a 15-storey constructing earlier than it was razed within the years after the 1521 Spanish conquest of Mexico, the rubble serving to obscure most of the newest finds.
Besides the central providing containing the jaguar, two further bins have been not too long ago recognized adjoining to it, with each set to be opened within the subsequent few weeks.
More ferocious animals dressed as warriors, maybe adorned with jade, turquoise and gold, are probably.
The aquatic choices masking the jaguar could symbolize the watery underworld the place the Aztecs believed the solar sank every evening, or presumably a part of a king’s journey after loss of life.
Joyce Marcus, an archaeologist specialising in historical Mexico on the University of Michigan, says the not too long ago unearthed choices illuminate the Aztec “worldview, ritual economy, and the obvious links between imperial expansion, warfare, military prowess and the ruler’s role” in ceremonies that sanctified conquests and allowed tributes to move into the capital.
“Each offering box adds another piece of the puzzle,” she stated.
Lastly, the skulls of a dozen sacrificed kids between one to 6 years outdated have been additionally found in a close-by pit, courting again a long time earlier but in addition linked to the god Huitzilopochtli.
The data obtained from the excavations goes far past incomplete colonial-era accounts that have been additionally colored by the European invaders’ personal justifications for conquest, in accordance with Diana Moreiras, an Aztec scholar on the University of British Columbia.
“We’re really getting to know the Aztecs on their own terms,” she stated, “because we’re actually looking at what they did, not what the Spaniards thought about them”.