Category Archives: MEXICO

OU archaeologists uncover buried building in the ancient Mexican city

OU archaeologists uncover buried building in the ancient Mexican city

University of Oklahoma researchers have made a finding that they believe could change the world’s view of an ancient capital.

The location of a buried building under the surface of the Main Plaza at Monte Alban, one of the first towns to establish in all of pre-Hispanic Mexico, was recently found by archaeologists from the University of Oklahoma.

The team used ground-penetrating radar, electrical resistance, and gradiometry to locate the structure.

OU archaeologists uncover buried building in the ancient Mexican city

“This discovery changes our understanding of the history of the Main Plaza and how it was organized and used,” said Marc Levine, assistant curator of archaeology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History and assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences. “Everything is deeply symbolic here.”

The building appears to resemble stone temples that were excavated by Mexican archaeologists in the 1930s.

Photo of Levine of Ground Penetrating Radar

Evidence from those temples indicates they were used for religious practices like burning incense, making offerings and ritual bloodletting.

Monte Albán was established in 500 BCE and eventually grew to become a powerful regional capital with impressive buildings featuring carved stone monuments with a highly developed artistic style and written language.

The Main Plaza was built, expanded and remodelled over 1,000 years before the site’s collapse around 850 CE.

Archaeologists have investigated many of the buildings erected around the Main Plaza, but have never focused research on the plaza itself to better examine its role in society.

OU researchers hope to develop a clearer picture of what the Main Plaza looked like during its early history and better appreciate the amount of work that went into its construction.

“If you think of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., every monument and every building that goes on that mall has a significance and was thought over, carefully planned and oriented in a certain way,” Levine said. “The same goes for Monte Albán.”

Levine stresses the importance of the site, saying the Main Plaza is even featured on the country’s 20 peso note.

The OU team also used a drone to create a digital map of the Main Plaza and its associated structures. With the help of a supercomputer, the team is creating 3-D images of all the buildings to measure their volume.

This will provide a better understanding of the effort required to move all the dirt and construct the buildings. Levine estimates the team will spend about two years analyzing all of their data to complete their study of the plaza.

“We may find some other things that are important that we haven’t had a chance to process yet,” he added.

The giant pyramid is hidden inside a mountain

The giant pyramid is hidden inside a mountain

Although the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is by far the most talked-about pyramid in the world, it is not by a long shot the tallest. The title goes to the Great Pyramid of Cholula, an ancient temple of the Aztecs in Puebla, Mexico, with a base four times the size of Giza, and about twice the volume.

Why is the world’s biggest pyramid so often overlooked? It could be because that gigantic structure is actually hidden beneath layers of dirt, making it look more like a natural mountain than a place of worship.

In fact, it looks so much like a mountain, that famed Spanish explorer Hernán Cortés completely missed it, and unwittingly built a church right on top of it, as you can see in the image above.

To understand how awesome the Great Pyramid of Cholula is, we must jump back to well before Cortés and his army planted a symbol of Christianity on its peak.

Known as Tlachihualtepetl (meaning “man-made mountain”), the origins of the pyramid are a little sketchy, though the general consensus is that it was built in around 300 BC by many different communities to honour the ancient god Quetzalcoatl.

As Zaria Gorvett reports for the BBC, the pyramid was likely constructed with adobe – a type of brick made of out of baked mud – and features six layers built on top of each over many generations. Each time a layer was completed, construction was picked back up by a new group of workers.

This incremental growth is what allowed the Great Pyramid of Cholula to get so big. With a base of 450 by 450 metres (1,480 by 1,480 feet), it’s four times the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The pyramid was built to appease the “feathered serpent” god

In fact, at roughly 66 metres (217 feet) tall, the pyramid’s total volume is about 4.45 million cubic metres (157 million cubic feet), while the Great Pyramid of Giza’s volume is just 2.5 million cubic metres (88.2 million cubic feet).

The Great Pyramid of Giza is taller, though, at 146 metres (481 feet) high. The ancient Aztecs most likely used the Great Pyramid of Cholula as a place of worship for around 1,000 years before moving to a new, smaller location nearby.

Before it was replaced by newer structures, it was painstakingly decorated in red, black, and yellow insects. But without maintenance, the mud bricks were left to do what mud does in humid climates – provide nutrients to all kinds of tropical greenery.

“It was abandoned sometime in the 7th or 8th Century CE,” archaeologist David Carballo from Boston University told Gorvett at the BBC. “The Choluteca had a newer pyramid-temple located nearby, which the Spaniards destroyed.”

When Cortés and his men arrived in Cholula in October 1519, some 1,800 years after the pyramid was constructed, they massacred around  3,000 people in a single hour – 10 per cent of entire city’s population – and levelled many of their religious structures.

But they never touched the pyramid, because they never found it. 

In 1594, after settling in the city and claiming it for their own, they built a church – La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios (Our Lady of Remedies Church), on top of the hidden pyramid mountain. 

It’s unclear if the Aztecs knew the mud bricks would encourage things to grow all over it and eventually bury the entire structure, but the fact that it looks more like a hill than a pyramid is probably the only reason it still survives today.

And just as well, because according to the BBC, not only is it the world’s largest pyramid, it retains the title of the largest monument ever constructed anywhere on Earth, by any civilisation, to this day.

The pyramid wasn’t discovered until the early 1900s when locals started to build a psychiatric ward nearby. By the 1930s, archaeologists started to uncover it, creating a series of tunnels stretching 8 kilometres (5 miles) in length to give them access.

Now, over 2,300 years after its initial construction, the site has become a tourist destination.

Hopefully, as our ability to study important sites using non-invasive tools continues to improve, archaeologists will gain a better understanding of how the structure was built, by whom, and how it came to look so much like a mountain.  

Long-lost Maya capital discovered in a backyard in Mexico

Long-lost Maya capital discovered in a backyard in Mexico

Archaeologists claim that they discovered the long-lost capital of an ancient Maya kingdom on the Mexico-Guatemalan border.

Schroder (left) and Scherer (right) excavate in the ancient city’s ballcourt. (Charles Golden)

In what is now Chiapas, Mexico, the Sak Tz’i Kingdom has 5,000-10,000 inhabitants from around 750 BCE by 900 AD, an associate professor of anthropology at Brandeis University, Charles Golden, said to LiveScience.

Golden said the empire was not particularly powerful and was surrounded by some of the superpowers of the day. He said that in inscriptions found in other cities, the Sak Tz’i’ kingdom was frequently mentioned.

“The reason we know about the kingdom from the inscriptions is that they get beat up by all these superpowers, their rulers are taken captive, they’re fighting wars, but they’re also negotiating alliances with those superpowers at the same time,” he said.

The downtown area was about a third of a mile long and a quarter-mile wide (600 meters by 400 meters) and had pyramids, a royal palace, a ball court and a number of houses.

“These are not big empires. They’re small city-states trying to carve out their little, little territories,” Golden said.

Golden and Brown University bioarchaeologist Andrew Scherer is leading the team that has been excavating the site since 2018. They published their findings in the Journal of Field Archaeology.

Golden said they found out about the site after graduate student Whittaker Schroder got a tip from a street food vendor, who introduced him to the rancher who owned the property.

The rancher had a stone tablet that had an inscription and a drawing of a Sak Tz’i’ king dressed as the Maya storm god.

Researchers made a drawing, left, and 3d model of the stone tablet.

Golden said the site had been raided by looters in 1960s and many of its monuments were stolen. The owner found the stone tablet in some rubble while working to protect what is left of the site.

“He found it by accident. There’s a lucky, lucky rescued object the looters had missed,” Golden said.

Golden said the looters used saws and other heavy equipment to cut the off faces of the monuments. The pieces wound up in museums and private collections around the world.

“When you go to the museum and see these objects, you’re seeing something that’s been really butchered from its original piece of stone, so we would try to reconnect it to the original piece of stone that may still be on on-site,” he said.

He said it’s taken years to build trust in the community and get permission to dig at the site.

“We are both excavating to find out how people lived and more about how they built these places, but we also have to conserve these buildings,” Golden said. “They were damaged by looters and we’ll be working with the landowner to stabilize and keep these buildings from further deterioration.”

He said he hopes the discovery will help them learn how these smaller kingdoms and their citizens lived their lives and negotiated to live between their powerful, feuding neighbours.

Found: The Oldest and Largest Maya Structure in Mexico

Found: The Oldest and Largest Maya Structure in Mexico

The oldest and largest Maya monumental structure on record has just been discovered after scientists shot millions of lasers from a plane to map an area in southern Mexico.

Seen via lidar, however, the Aguada Fénix platform stands out prominently on the Mexican landscape.

At the newfound site, called Aguada Fénix, researchers found an artificial plateau measuring about 0.9 miles (1.4 kilometers) long, 0.2 miles (399 meters) wide, and between 33 and 50 feet (10 and 15 m) high. And it likely served as a communal gathering place for the Maya. 

The discovery pushes back when archaeologists thought this civilization built large structures, especially because there weren’t yet any dynasties to organize such an endeavor.

“It forced us to change our understanding of the development of Maya civilization and the development of human society in general,” said Takeshi Inomata, a professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona, who led a new study on the finding.

Archaeologists have traditionally thought that the Maya civilization developed gradually. From 1200 B.C. to 1000 B.C., the people in the Maya lowlands were thought to have moved about, with a combination of hunting, gathering, and some farming, including growing maize.

It wasn’t until the Middle Preclassic period (1000-350 B.C.), the thinking went, that small village began to emerge, along with the creation of ceramics and a transition to sedentism — staying in one place for a long time.

According to this theory, the Maya didn’t begin building ceremonial centers with large pyramids until much later, sometime between 350 B.C. and 250 B.C. However, this idea is now under fire. Radiocarbon dating of 69 samples from Aguada Fénix shows that it was used between 1000 B.C. and 800 B.C. After it was largely abandoned by 750 B.C., small groups returned to use the structure.

Aguada Fénix isn’t the only site overturning the traditional interpretation. For instance, a ceremonial complex and artificial plateau built at Ceibal in 950 B.C. (until now, considered the oldest Maya ceremonial center), indicates that the early Maya built large structures even before the civilization became organized under dynasties with centralized government, the researchers said.

To the naked eye, the ancient site of Aguada Fénix is invisible among the rural ranches of Tabasco.
The adorable “Choco,” a peccary-esque sculpture found at the site.

Not ‘deep in the jungle’

Aguada Fénix wasn’t hidden deep in the jungle, but rather on a cattle ranch in Tabasco, Mexico, near the northwestern Guatemalan border. Nobody knew about this site because it’s so big, that if you walk on the site it just looks like a natural landscape, Inomata told Live Science. 

After finding the site in 2017, Inomata and his colleagues did a lidar (light detection and ranging) survey at Tabasco. With lidar, a plane flies over an area while equipment on board shoots millions of lasers that can pass through vegetation and generate 3D maps depicting the shape of the Earth and the structures on it.

The lidar survey revealed the artificial plateau and nine causeways radiating from it. The main plateau is up to 151 million cubic feet (4.3 million cubic meters) in volume. The next largest Maya structure, the La Danta complex at El Mirador in Guatemala, is 98 million cubic feet (2.8 million cubic meters).

“In other words, the main plateau of Aguada Fénix is the largest construction in the pre-Hispanic Maya area,” the researchers wrote in the study. After the lidar survey, the researchers excavated the plateau to learn more about its construction. During that time, the team found jade and stone artifacts that were likely used in rituals at Aguada Fénix. 

Power to the people

Aguada Fénix bears some similarities to San Lorenzo, an even larger artificial plateau built by the Olmec, who thrived there from 1400 B.C. to 1150 B.C. in what is now the Mexican state of Veracruz. San Lorenzo also has colossal sculptures of stone heads and thrones, a clue that the Olmec society already had a hierarchy because it was honoring certain elites. 

There is a debate on whether the Olmec civilization led to the Maya, or whether the Maya developed independently, Inomata noted. 

That said, unlike San Lorenzo, Aguada Fénix had far less evidence of social inequality, the researchers found. “Unlike those Olmec centers, Aguada Fénix does not exhibit clear indicators of marked social inequality, such as sculptures representing high-status individuals,” the researchers wrote in the study. “The only stone sculpture found so far at Aguada Fénix depicts an animal” — a peccary, or wild pig.

Aguada Fénix differs in other ways from San Lorenzo; it incorporates distinctly Maya features, including raised causeways and reservoir systems, said Lisa Lucero, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, who was not involved with the study.

While later Maya pyramids were built for the elite, Aguada Fénix was built by the people, for the people. “This big plateau is basically for everybody,” Inomata said. “It’s a place where people [could] gather.”

It’s no surprise that the Maya built a place to congregate, Lucero said. Other monumental structures, including Stonehenge in Great Britain and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, show “when people lived dispersed and/or a more nomadic lifestyle, that they created a community to build such places,” and they didn’t need elite political leaders to organize it, she said. 

At Aguada Fénix, Maya who was dispersed due to agricultural demands could come together to work, celebrate, share knowledge, exchange goods, meet potential mates, worship, and so on, Lucero told Live Science. 

“Based on the different soils, it is likely that people from many different communities built Aguada Fénix, even bringing soils from their homes,” she added. The study was published online June 3 in the journal Nature. 

The Rome of America: What Lies Under Teotihuacan? – The Real City of the Gods

The Rome of America: What Lies Under Teotihuacan? – The Real City of the Gods

It was a Massive, one of the first great cities of the Western Hemisphere. And its origins are a mystery. It was built by hand more than a thousand years before the swooping arrival of the Nahuatl-speaking Aztec in central Mexico. But it was the Aztec, descending on the abandoned site, no doubt falling awestruck by what they saw, who gave its current name: Teotihuacan.

The Pyramid of the Sun (top) is the largest structure in the ancient city of Teotihuacan, Mexico, and one of the largest buildings of its kind on the Western Hemisphere.

A famed archaeological site located fewer than 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Mexico City, Teotihuacan reached its zenith between 100 B.C. and A.D. 650. It covered 8 square miles (21 square kilometers) and supported a population of a hundred thousand, according to George Cowgill, an archaeologist at Arizona State University and a National Geographic Society grantee.

“It was the largest city anywhere in the Western Hemisphere before the 1400s,” Cowgill says. “It had thousands of residential compounds and scores of pyramid-temples … comparable to the largest pyramids of Egypt.”

Oddly, Teotihuacan, which contains a massive central road (the Street of the Dead) and buildings including the Temple of the Sun and the Temple of the Moon, has no military structures—though experts say the military and cultural wake of Teotihuacan was heavily felt throughout the region.

Who Built It?

Cowgill says the site’s visible surface remains have all been mapped in detail. But only some portions have been excavated.

Scholars once pointed to the Toltec culture. Others note that the Toltec peaked far later than Teotihuacan’s zenith, undermining that theory. Some scholars say the Totonac culture was responsible.

No matter its principal builders, evidence shows that Teotihuacan hosted a patchwork of cultures including the Maya, Mixtec, and Zapotec. One theory says an erupting volcano forced a wave of immigrants into the Teotihuacan valley and that those refugees either built or bolstered the city.

The main excavations, performed by Professors Saburo Sugiyama of Aichi Prefectural University in Japan and Rubén Cabrera, a Mexican archaeologist, have been at the Pyramid of the Moon. It was there, beneath layers of dirt and stone, that researchers realized the awe-inspiring craftsmanship of Teotihuacan’s architects was matched by a cultural penchant for brutality and human and animal sacrifice.

Inside the temple, researchers found buried animals and bodies, with heads that had been lobbed off, all thought to be offerings to gods or sanctification for successive layers of the pyramid as it was built.

Since 2003, archaeologist Sergio Gomez has been working to access new parts of the complex and has only recently reached the end of a tunnel that could hold a king’s tomb.

It’s unclear why Teotihuacan collapsed; one theory is that poorer classes carried out an internal uprising against the elite.

For Cowgill, who says more studies are needed to understand the lives of the poorer classes that inhabited Teotihuacan, the mystery lies not as much in who built the city or in why it fell.

“Rather than asking why Teotihuacan collapsed, it is more interesting to ask why it lasted so long,” he says. “What were the social, political, and religious practices that provided such stability?”

Megalithic stone blocks scattered in the vicinity of the pyramid of the Feathered Serpents at Teotihuacan.
Megalithic stone head from the earlier layer of construction.
Megalithic stone blocks scattered in the vicinity of the pyramid of the Feathered Serpents at Teotihuacan.
Megalithic stone blocks scattered in the vicinity of the pyramid of the Feathered Serpents at Teotihuacan.

Mysterious Secret Tunnel Discovered Under Ancient Pyramid in Mexico

Mysterious Secret Tunnel Discovered Under Ancient Pyramid in Mexico

Hidden passage to the underworld could just have been found, at least according to the mysterious ancient civilization that built it.

A secret tunnel leading down a chamber deep underneath the Pyramid of the Moon, a massive temple located in the ancient city of Teotihuacán, near what is now Mexico City, confirmed by the Archaeologists

The research team believes that the chamber may be used as a funeral ritual, while the tunnel may have represented the route to the underworld—a powerful concept for the Aztecs, Maya, and other pre-Columbian societies.

Gomes Believe that the tunnel is one of the most important discoveries in the history of Mexico.
Gomes Believe that tunnel is one of the most important discoveries in the history of Mexico.

Using a technique called electrical resistance technology, researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) mapped an image of the earth beneath the pyramid without breaking any ground.

This is how they discovered the hollowed-out chamber about 26 feet under the pyramid, with a diameter of 49 feet, as well as the subterranean tunnel.

The Pyramid of the Moon.

First settled as early as 400 B.C., Teotihuacán became the thriving center of the ancient Mesoamerican world by 300 A.D., around the time the city’s largest structures, including the Pyramid of the Moon, were completed.

No one knows for sure who founded Teotihuacán, or why the civilization centered there suddenly and mysteriously collapsed starting around A.D. 600. By A.D. 750, the surviving members of a population that at its height may have numbered some 200,000 had dispersed, leaving their once-great metropolis and its sacred pyramids behind.

The Aztecs first found the city’s ruins around 1300, and gave it its name, which means “the place where men become gods” in their Nahuatl language.

Since the 17th century, the temple known in the pre-Hispanic world as Meztli Itzácual has been the site of dozens of archaeological excavations.

Built on elevated ground, the Pyramid of the Moon is the highest point in the ancient complex. This pyramid towers above 12 smaller pyramid platforms believed to be stages where both animal and human sacrifices took place. It is located at the opposite end of the so-called Avenue of Death from Teotihuacán’s largest structure, the Pyramid of the Sun.

Aerial view of Aztec Pyramids, including the Moon Pyramid, in San Juan de Teotihuacan, Mexico

Earlier tombs found inside the Pyramid of the Moon have contained sacrificial remains, including deformed human skulls, as well as jewelry and other grave objects made of greenstone.

According to Verónica Ortega, director of the Integral Conservation Project for the Plaza of the Moon, excavations of the newly discovered chamber will likely turn up similar objects.

“These large offering complexes constitute the sacred heart of the city of Teotihuacán, the reason why everyone saw it as the mecca of the civilization,” Ortega said in a statement. “What can be found inside them will help unravel the relationship this ancient metropolis had with other regions of Mesoamerica.”

The 290 Million Year Old Fossil Human Footprint

The 290 Million Year Old Fossil Human Footprint

There is a story going around, that up in the Robledo Mountains of southern New Mexico exists a mind-bending fossilised impression. Why should this be of interest you wonder? The answer is because it is seemingly the print of a human being wandering the area some 290 million years ago.

I for one support a revised view of human origins, one that is very controversial, it is my publicly stated opinion that human beings, of one sort or another, go back further than currently believed and that Homo sapiens go back several hundred thousand years beyond the current consensus dating. Despite all of that, I admit it is a struggle to believe a man much like myself was wandering around New Mexico long before even dinosaurs had arisen on our planet!

What is to be made of this story, indeed of the photographic evidence also provided to accompany it?

To make any sense of the matter we need to go back to 1987, it was in that year that a sociologist (and amateur ichnologist) by the name of Jerry Paul MacDonald discovered a plethora of fossilised animal tracks high up in that mountain range. The rock strata, a type of mudstone found at the site, was reliably dated to the Permian Period.

This vast sweep of time covers approximately the era between 300 million and 250 million years before the present. There is no controversy over the dating of the many fossil prints at the site, they are accepted to be from creatures that must have existed in the Permian period, even if some are from creatures not as yet identified (which seemingly remains the case).

There certainly is some head-scratching associated with fossilised prints at the location, a number are seen as ‘problematica’ due to their similarity to those of animals from much later periods, including prints akin to modern birds (small three-toed impressions) and even bears (deep five arched toe marks along with nail impressions). Keep in mind that the Permian is a time long before even dinosaurs, let alone the much more recent appearance of birds and mammals.

These prints certainly suggest that there were animals walking the earth during the Permian period of which we know nothing, but is that such a shock when you take into account how little we can ever know of events over 250 million years ago? Perhaps not.

In and of themselves these prints are pretty revolutionary, simply because they suggest life forms that had much more anatomical similarity to modern animals than we would ever have imagined possible at that early point.

That does not necessarily mean a brown bear was chasing a chicken for its dinner, without fossilised skeletons we can only hazard a guess at what these creatures really looked like, to rebuild an entire lost species from a footprint seems at best an outlandish exercise in wishful thinking. With that thought in mind let us now turn our attention back to the supposed ‘human’ footprint.

What does Jerry MacDonald say about the human footprint he supposedly discovered? The answer appears to be, nothing at all. That in itself should through up some major red flags.

It also seems that the photograph supplied along with the claims of a prehistoric human footprint has no connection to MacDonald or his research work, in fact, it is seemingly supplied by a chap named Don Patton. Now, Don Patton is a self-admitted creationist and young earth theorist, on a number of occasions he has claimed to hold degrees and even Ph.D. qualifications in geology and archaeology, these have later been investigated and shown to be academically invalid (related to unaccredited Christian institutions). In fact, there is actually a second image of the footprint, shown accompanied by Don Patton, and the image is itself an example of ‘problematica’. It looks very much more like a separate slab of stone, or some kind of plaster cast, rather than an in situ print.

The footprint also looks very small, smaller than Don’s hand, with no sign of matching left print despite the fact such a small being’s prints should both comfortably fit on that slab (at least in partial). It should however be noted that there are some responding claims made that this was a very young child and that a partial left print snapped off from the ledge where the initial print was found.

If one digs deeper the entire story starts to fall apart, the print transpires to have been purportedly found by a mysterious hunter (no connection to Jerry MacDonald) and only ever investigated by Don Patton and his associate Carl Baugh (another creationist known to have claimed dodgy academic credentials).

They tell us that they were not able to do any real documenting of the find due to the sudden appearance of an angry landowner with a shotgun. What further adds to the fishy smell this story now begins to produce is the fact they state the print was made in a limestone layer, one dated to the Permian period.

“While the team was working, they were confronted by a local landowner who was armed with a shotgun. The landowner claimed that they were trespassing and that they were on his property. They showed the landowner the mining permit and stated that the property they were on was BLM (Bureau of Land Management) property. The armed landowner insisted that they leave immediately.”

Exactly how this stone layer could have been so accurately dated, by two falsely credentialed amateur geologists, busy running away from an armed man, really begs belief (let alone how they had time to make a cast). The second red flag is the very fact that the layer of the purported print is identified as being limestone, as we have already noted earlier that the layer in which MacDonald found his prints was mudstone, suggesting that this is an entirely different site with no connection at all if it even exists.

As ever it seems that when we dig for the truth we often have to shovel through a whole heap of disinformation and misinformation. Probably, like me, you are left shaking your head at this entire story and ready to through the whole matter into your mental dustbin. But before we leave this tale let us return to a very intriguing find genuinely made at the location where MacDonald was investigating.

In 1992 Jerry MacDonald took Doug Stewart (a regular contributor to the Smithsonian magazine) up to his site and allowed Doug to participate in making new finds as well as an independent examination of existing discoveries.

It is actually from Doug Stewart’s later report to the Smithsonian that we hear of the strange bird-like and bear-like footprints. One line in this report does leave us wondering whether some strange vaguely-humanoid type of creature perhaps walked the earth in the distant times of the Permian:

‘He’s got several tracks where creatures appear to be walking on their hind legs, others that look almost simian.’

The reality is of course that without even a photograph of the prints mentioned in the report, we can do little but speculate on what type of creature, some 250 million years ago, left tracks ‘kinda similar’ to those of a monkey. Whatever it was, I am betting it was nothing like we humans.

Ancient Maya Worshipped ‘Batman God’ 2,500 Years Ago

Ancient Maya Worshipped ‘Batman God’ 2,500 Years Ago

A peculiar religious cult grew up among the Zapotec Indians of Oaxaca, Mexico in 100 A.D.

The dangerous cave-dwelling bat creature – which the Zapotecs believed represented night, death, and sacrifice – was eventually adopted into the pantheon of the K’iche’, a Mayan tribe inhabiting modern-day Guatemala and Honduras. The legends of the bat god were later recorded in Popol Vuh, a Mayan sacred book.

Camazotz, which translates to ‘death bat‘ (K’iche’ word ‘kame‘ means “death”, while ‘sotz’ means “bat”), originated deep in Mesoamerican mythology as a dangerous cave-dwelling bat creature.

The K’iche’ identified the bat-deity with their god Zotzilaha Chamalcan, the god of fire. Camazotz, which inhabited Xibalbá, is also commonly depicted holding a sacrificial knife in one hand and a human heart or sacrificial victim in the other.

Templo Mayor, located in downtown Mexico City, has an adjacent museum that displays artifacts and renditions of items from the Mesoamerican civilizations. The top floor of this museum contains a recreated statue of Camazotz.

One of the most prominent and commonly mentioned features of the Camazotz is “a nose the shape of a flint knife”, which could be an exaggerated interpretation of the nose-leaf possessed by members of the Phyllostomidae or leaf-nosed bats.

Maya sculpture that depicts the vampire bat god, Camazotz.

Traces

In 1988, a fossil of a giant vampire bat was discovered in the Mongas province of Venezuela. The bat was larger than the modern vampire bat by 25% and was dubbed D. Draculae.  Its recent age and large range suggest that the bat could have co-existed with the K’iche’, giving rise to the legends of the Camazotz.

In 2000, a tooth from D. Draculae was found in Argentina – much farther south of the modern range of the Desmodus genus. The latest age found for a D. Draculae site is circa 1650 AD. These dates make it very possible that D. Draculae coexisted with humans in South America and Central America.

The common vampire bat, D. Rotundus, has an eight-inch wingspan. Since D. Draculae was 25% larger, it would have required more blood and probably would have attacked larger animals – and possibly even humans. It is undoubtable that an attack by a rare giant bat would give rise to legends of supernatural monsters.

In 2014, Warner Brothers gathered as many as 30 artists to reinterpret Batman on the occasion of its 75th anniversary. Christian Pacheco, one of the artists, recalled that Batman is not the first reference of an enigmatic anthropomorphic being with a man’s body and a bat’s head. It is was indeed the feared Camazotz.

Pacheco’s Yucatán [Mexico]-based design firm Kimbal made a replica of the bust with which Bruce Wayne disguises the character and molded it with Maya motifs and references to the ancient Camazotz.

The designed gave a heads up to many people that the very first batman can be traced back to the ancient Maya, more than 2,500 years ago.

Maya style Batman suit recreated by Christian Pacheco

In the Popol Vuh, Camazotz was a common name making reference to the bat-like monsters that the Mayan twin heroes Hunahpú and Ixbalanque stumbled across, during their trials in Xibalbá, the Mayan underworld.

Camazotz was said to attack victims by the neck and decapitate them. In the Popol Vuh, it is recorded that the deity decapitated Hunahpú and is also one of the four animal demons responsible for wiping out mankind during the age of the first sun.

National Geographic Writes:

“The Maya hero twins were placed inside a bat house—a cave filled with death bats, called Camazotz by the Maya.

The bats had snouts like blades, which they used to kill people and animals. To escape, the twins crawled inside their blowguns, and all night long the bats terrorized them. Toward dawn, one of the twins said he would check to see if it was safe to leave. He raised his head out of his gun—and promptly had it cut off by a Camazotz.”

In 2018, it was reported that two species of carnivorous bats were found from southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil – the woolly bat (the toothy, hungry bats with long bunny-like ears and a lance-shaped nose leaf found in a Maya temple) and the spectral bat.  According to biologist Rodrigo Medellín, woolly and spectral bats are likely the bats described in the Popol Vuh:

“These bats do the same thing. They stalk their prey, land on them with half-spread wings, locking them with the thumb claws, and deliver a death bite to the back or top of the head. Camazotz was not an invention.”