© Reuters. A close-up view of the Templo Mayor where several ritual offerings have recently been found on the steps of the Templo Mayor, the most sacred temple of the Aztec empire, in Mexico City, Mexico November 15, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Romero.
By David Alire Garcia
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Ancient Aztec sacrificial remains found beneath Mexico City, near the steps of the empire’s most sacred site, offer new insights into pre-Hispanic religious practices and political intrigue.
Sealed in stone caskets five hundred years ago at the base of the temple, the contents of a single casket found in the center of the ritual circle have broken the record of the number of sea sacrifices from the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf Coast of Mexico. , including 165 starfish that were bright red and more than 180 branches.
Archaeologists believe that Aztec priests placed these items carefully in a box on a raised platform for a ceremony attended by thousands of spectators and the sound of drums.
“An imperial lie,” Leonardo Lopez Lujan, an archaeologist at the Proyecto Templo Mayor of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is overseeing the excavation, said of the exhibit.
In the same box, archaeologists found a sacrificed jaguar dressed as a warrior associated with the Aztec leader Huitzilopochtli, god of war and the sun, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to rest for more than two years.
Previously undisclosed was the discovery last month of a sacrificial eagle caught in the animal’s hand, along with small wooden spears and a reed shield found near the west-facing caterpillar, which had bells on its feet. .
The half-excavated box of rats, which belonged to the great Aztec king Ahuitzotl who ruled from 1486 to 1502, now shows a mysterious explosion between the bones of the jaguar, revealing something solid below.
“Everything under the jaguar is very important,” Lopez Lujan said.
“We’re looking forward to the big discovery.”
Lopez Lujan, who oversees the excavations that today is called Templo Mayor, thinks that the box may contain an urn containing the remains of Ahuitzotl, a king whose military activities expanded the empire in modern Guatemala while connecting the Pacific coast with the Gulf of Mexico. . But they say another year of digging is needed to answer this question.
To date, no Aztec royal tombs have been found despite more than 40 years of digging around the Templo Mayor, where more than 200 donation boxes have been found.
The temple was as tall as a 15-story building before it was destroyed a few years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521, the ruins of which helped to hide many of the more recent works.
In addition to the central offering that contained jaguar meat, two additional boxes have recently been found next to the animal, and both will be opened in the next few weeks.
Wild beasts dressed like warriors, perhaps decorated with jade, turquoise and gold, are a sight to behold.
The water sacrifices that cover the animal would stand at the bottom of the water where the Aztecs believed that the sun would set each night, or perhaps at some point during the king’s journey.
Joyce Marcus, an archeologist specializing in ancient Mexico at the University of Michigan, says that the recently excavated sacrifices shed light on Aztec “worldviews, ritual wealth, and a clear connection between imperial expansion, warfare, military power and the role of ruler” in the rituals that sanctified. conquer and allow the tax to enter the capital.
“Each donation box adds another piece of the puzzle,” he said.
Finally, the skulls of twelve sacrificed children between the ages of one and six were also found in a nearby pit, dating back several decades and linked to Huitzilopochtli.
The excavations go beyond the incomplete stories of the colonial era that were also seen as what European enemies wanted to conquer, according to Diana Moreiras, an Aztec studies expert at the University of British Columbia.
He said: “We are really getting to know the Aztecs according to what they want.”