Category Archives: MEXICO

El Pital: A Massive Ancient Port City Home to 150 Pyramids

El Pital: A Massive Ancient Port City Home to 150 Pyramids

The remains of a huge, ancient port city believed to have flourished for 500 years during the decline of the Roman Empire have been discovered on Mexico’s Gulf Coast, the National Geographic Society announced Thursday.

With more than 150 earthen pyramids and other buildings, the biggest 100 feet high, the port seems to have been North America’s largest coastal city 1,500 years ago. The site, in the state of Veracruz, has been named El Pital for a nearby town.

Although digging has not begun at the site, an examination of the surface has already yielded artefacts and information that establish the city’s importance as a multiethnic political, commercial and agricultural centre from AD 100 to 600.

150 pyramids

El Pital could provide important clues to gaps in ancient Mexican history in areas bordering the seats of the Mayan and Aztec empires, said American archaeologist S. Jeffrey K. Wilkerson of the Institute for Cultural Ecology of the Tropics in Tampa, Fla. He is directing the exploration, which is partly funded by National Geographic.

El Pital residents probably traded with their contemporaries at Teotihuacan, the site of the famous pyramids north of the capital that was built by a civilization that predated the Aztecs.

The city is likely to have been an early rival of El Tajin, a later city 40 miles away that until now was the biggest archaeological site in northern Veracruz. El Pital appears to have been larger than El Tajin, controlling an area that included more than 40 square miles of suburbs and farmland and probably influencing an area several times that large.

The discovery could also have significant ecological implications because the ancient civilization seems to have supported more than 20,000 people–similar to the population of the area today–using farming techniques less harmful to the environment than the intensive chemical agriculture now practised there.

“The (population) density we’re seeing far exceeds anything that preceded it in this area and even those that follow until the end of the 20th Century,” Wilkerson said. “Something special was going on technologically that allowed that to happen and that has not occurred in the intervening 1,500 years.”

The fields around El Pital were made highly productive by some of the largest earth-moving projects of their time. Canals were dug to drain wetlands or to channel fresh water into rich estuaries that brackish water would otherwise have left infertile.

Residents also appear to have constructed an artificial island to guard the two slow-moving rivers that provided access to their city from the Gulf of Mexico. One of those rivers is the Nautla, Mexico’s 26th-largest river, notable because it floods every year, like the ancient Nile, leaving farmers a layer of rich silt.

The city’s demise may have been connected to a megacycle of El Nino, a climatic phenomenon that resulted in six months a year of the cold, windy rains known as nortes , Wilkerson theorized.

Some cocoa farmers still lived in the region at the time of the Spanish conquest, but the disease had mainly wiped them out by the end of the 16th Century. The jungle reclaimed the area until plantation owners cleared it again in the 1930s and 1940s.

Today’s farmers rely on chemicals to fertilize plantations in what is now one of Mexico’s most important banana and citrus regions. Those chemicals have stained ancient ceramic fragments–whose varied patterns led scientists to believe that the area was multiethnic–and even obsidian, an extremely dense volcanic material seldom penetrated, Wilkerson said.

Besides everyday ceramics, archaeologists have found a mask that resembles the image of the ancient rain god Tlaloc and a four-inch clay head believed to depict a sacrificed ballgame player. Residents of El Pital seem to have been major fans of ballgames: Eight courts have already been identified in the area.

“This is an extensive site with huge monuments for that period,” said Enrique Nalda, technical secretary of Mexico’s National Institute of Archeology and History, which granted Wilkerson a permit to explore the El Pital area.

Some of the pyramids at El Pital.

Ironically, Wilkerson discovered El Pital because the institute nearly two years ago refused to allow him to continue working in an area farther upriver, where he has carried out investigations over the last three decades.

1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan

1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan

Several bouquets of offering flowers have been discovered 59 feet below the temple of the god Quetzalcóatl – a pyramid that still stands in the Mexican ruined city of Teotihuacan. 

Quetzalcóatl, or ‘Plumed Serpent’ was an important god during ancient Mesoamerica, a historical region that included central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and northern Costa Rica.

This deity was said to have given maize to humanity and was responsible for the creation of mankind, which may be why offering flowers were uncovered under the god’s temple.

Sergio Gómez, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, said the stems are in good condition and still tied with the original cotton-made cords.

‘In total there are four bouquets of flowers in very good condition, they are still tied with ropes, probably cotton,’ Gómez told Mexican news outlet La Jornada.

‘This is a very important find because it speaks of the rituals that were carried out in this place.’

Gómez says it is too early to determine what kind they are – but he hopes to solve that mystery soon.

‘Although we do not know the exact date of when they were deposited, because we just took them out this week, they must be very old and correspond to the first phases of Teotihuacan, between 1,800 and 2,000 years ago,’ Gómez explained.

1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan
The stems are in good condition and still tied with the original cotton-made cords
1,800-Year-Old Offering to the Gods Discovered Beneath Pyramid of Teotihuacan
Teotihuacan, with its huge pyramids of the sun and moon, is made up of a labyrinth of palaces, temples, homes, workshops, markets and avenues. The city is thought to have been built in 100BC and existed until the 8th century

‘We have found complete objects that were placed in this shot; the ceramics are also from the Zacuali and Miccaotli phases, from the beginning of our era, between years zero and 200 after Christ.’

Gómez has been working in the ruined city for nearly 12 years, sifting through ancient soil, rocks and pyramids looking for clues about those who once called the area home.

Some 30 miles (50km) north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan, with its huge pyramids of the sun and moon, is made up of a labyrinth of palaces, temples, homes, workshops, markets and avenues.

The city is thought to have been built in 100BC and existed until the 8th century. Archaeologists consider it one of the most influential in pre-Hispanic North America, with a population of 200,000 at its peak.

However, only 5 per cent of Teotihuacan has been excavated despite more than 100 years of exploration. During excavations, Gómez as recovered more than 100,000 artifacts within the ancient city and specifically under the three pyramids that are still standing.

However, the offering flowers are the first intact botanical materials every to be found at the site.

‘It is very relevant because it will give us indications of the flora that was used for ritual purposes,’ Gómez said.

In 2011, archaeologist uncovered other offerings at the base of the pyramid, including animal remains, three human figurines and a haunting, green mask that was used in rituals 2,000 years ago
The mask was carved from a single jade stone and is the only one of its kind to be discovered in thee ancient city

‘In this same context, while sifting the earth, several kilos of charcoal were found as a result of a ritual ceremony that included the burning of seeds and fruits.’

In 2011, archaeologists uncovered other offerings at the base of the pyramid, including animal remains three human figurines and a haunting, green mask that was used in rituals 2,000 years ago.

Perez Cortez, an investigator with the Zacatecas INAH Center, said in a statement when the mask was discovered: ‘We know [the offerings were] deposited as part of a dedication ceremony.’

The mask was carved from a single jade stone and is the only one of its kind to be discovered in the ancient city. 

Fossil footprints show humans in North America more than 21,000 years ago

Fossil footprints show humans in North America more than 21,000 years ago

The question of when humans first migrated to North America has long been a matter of hot debate among researchers who have continually uncovered evidence of ever-earlier dates. Now, analysis of ancient fossilized human footprints in New Mexico has pushed the date back once again — to at least 21,000 years ago.

Fossilized human footprints showed at the White Sands National Park in New Mexico. According to a report published in the journal Science, the impressions indicate that early humans were walking across North America around 23,000 years ago.

Writing in the journal Science, a team of researchers led by Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University in England examined a set of human footprints preserved on an ancient lakeshore in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, a location now known for its expansive — and dry — chalk-coloured dunes.

They concluded that the footprints were made between 21,000 and 23,000 years old. The date would place human habitation in the Americas during the Last Glacial Maximum and at least 5,000 years earlier than widely accepted evidence has yet suggested.

The team has studied the footprints at White Sands National Park for years, excavating trenches and following the tracks with ground-penetrating radar.

The footprints were mostly made by children and teenagers

Bennett and his colleagues, whose paper was published Thursday, determined that the tracks belonged to numerous people, mostly children and teenagers. What’s more, the footprints spanned a significant time period, suggesting that humans frequented the area for at least a few thousand years.

“One of the beautiful things about footprints is that, unlike stone tools or bones, they can’t be moved up or down the stratigraphy,” Bennett says, according to Science News, referring to the layers where artefacts and fossils are found. “They’re fixed, and they’re very precise.”

Normally, rock layers are “a nightmare” to date, says Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences. But he says that two years ago, archaeologist David Bustos, a study co-author, discovered a site where human footprints were co-mingled with a layer of sediment containing seeds from the spiral ditch grass, an aquatic plant that could be carbon-dated. The results gave an estimate for the footprints.

Tom Higham, an archaeological scientist and radiocarbon-dating expert at the University of Vienna, who was not part of the study, called the latest findings “extremely exciting.”

“I am convinced that these footprints genuinely are of the age claimed,” he said, according to Nature.

The evidence for older dates for migration to the Americas is less solid

Although previous studies have suggested an even earlier migration of modern humans into North America — including a controversial 2017 paper suggesting that people lived in the Southern California region as long as 130,000 years ago — those claims have been largely discounted because of the “equivocality of the evidence,” Nature says. For instance, rocks were mistaken for tools, and marks on animal bones thought to be made by humans turned out to have a natural origin, the journal says.

“For decades, archaeologists have debated when people first arrived in the Americas,” says Vance Holliday, a University of Arizona archaeologist and co-author of the latest paper.

“Few archaeologists see reliable evidence for sites older than about 16,000 years. Some think the arrival was later, no more than 13,000 years ago by makers of artefacts called Clovis points.”

Last year, Nature published a paper by archaeologists who claimed to have found human artefacts in Mexico’s Chiquihuite Cave dating to at least 26,000 years ago.

But many fellow archaeologists were sceptical, pointing to the possibility that what the researchers had identified as stone tools were in fact naturally fractured rocks.

Ciprian Ardelean, who led the 2020 study at Chiquihuite, readily acknowledges that the discovery by Bennett and his colleagues “is very close to finding the Holy Grail.”

“I feel a healthy but profound envy — a good kind of jealousy — towards the team for finding such a thing,” Ardelean told National Geographic.

Mexico’s Teotihuacan pyramid has 2,000-year-old floral offerings, discovered by archaeologists

Mexico’s Teotihuacan pyramid has 2,000-year-old floral offerings, discovered by archaeologists

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the ancient people of Teotihuacan wrapped bunches of flowers into beautiful bouquets, laid them beneath a jumble of wood and set the pile ablaze.

Now, archaeologists have found the remains of those surprisingly well-preserved flowers in a tunnel snaking beneath a pyramid of the ancient city, located northeast of what is now Mexico City. 

The pyramid itself is immense and would have stood 75 feet (23 meters) tall when it was first built, making it taller than the Sphinx of Giza from ancient Egypt.

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, Mexico

The Teotihuacan pyramid is part of the “Temple of the Feathered Serpent,” which was built in honour of Quetzalcoatl, a serpent god who was worshipped in Mesoamerica. 

Archaeologists found the bouquets 59 feet (18 m)  below ground in the deepest part of the tunnel, said Sergio Gómez-Chávez, an archaeologist with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) who is leading the excavation of the tunnel.

Mexico's Teotihuacan pyramid has 2,000-year-old floral offerings, discovered by archaeologists
A digital reconstruction of the tunnel running under the pyramid at Teotihuacan.

Numerous pieces of pottery, along with a sculpture depicting Tlaloc, a god associated with rainfall and fertility, were found beside the bouquets, he added. 

The bouquets were likely part of rituals, possibly associated with fertility, that Indigenous people performed in the tunnel, Gómez-Chávez told Live Science in a translated email. The team hopes that by determining the identity of the flowers, they can learn more about the rituals. 

One of the 2,000-year-old bouquets is prepped for research.

The team discovered the bouquets just a few weeks ago. The number of flowers in each bouquet varies, Gómez-Chávez said, noting that one bouquet has 40 flowers tied together while another has 60 flowers. 

Archaeologists found evidence of a large bonfire with numerous pieces of burnt wood where the bouquets were laid down, Gómez-Chávez said.

It seems that people placed the bouquets on the ground first and then covered them with a vast amount of wood. The sheer amount of wood seems to have protected the bouquets from the bonfire’s flames. 

The tunnel that Gómez-Chávez’s team is excavating was found in 2003 and has yielded thousands of artefacts including pottery, sculptures, cocoa beans, obsidian, animal remains and even a miniature landscape with pools of liquid mercury. Archaeologists are still trying to understand why ancient people created the tunnel and how they used it. 

Teotihuacan contains several pyramids and flourished between roughly 100 B.C. and A.D. 600. It had an urban core that covered 8 square miles (20 square kilometres) and may have had a population of 100,000 people. 

Graves dating back 2,700 years have been unearthed in southern Mexico City

Graves dating back 2,700 years have been unearthed in southern Mexico City

Experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered 26 ancient graves dating back 2,700 years at a site in Mexico City.

Located in the south of the capital and adjoining a modern-day cemetery, the site measures 360 square meters and archaeologists believe that it might have been used by women for activities related to the care of infants.

During excavations over the last four months, the INAH team has found the graves at depths between 1.2 and 3.3 meters below street level. About 20 of them are in a perfect state of conservation.

Graves dating back 2,700 years have been unearthed in southern Mexico City
They were found between 1.2 and 3.3 meters below street level; about 20 are perfectly conserved.

“Until now, we have detected four stages of settlement; four historical periods linked to the start of the 20th century, the Porfiriato [the period of more than three decades when former president Porfirio Díaz was in power], Mexico’s independence and the pre-Hispanic period,” said Antonio Balcorta Yépez, an INAH archaeologist working on the project.

Of the 26 graves found, 11 are in the form of a truncated cone, while the archaeologists have also found vestiges of walls from pre-Hispanic structures.

Ancient graves were discovered in southern Mexico City.

“We’ve made a series of discoveries that have revolutionized the knowledge we had about graves in the pre-classic period. The context suggests to us that we are in a village where they carried out specialized activities.

The height [of the site and] its geographical and strategic position indicates to us that the people [who lived on] this hill may have had greater control over certain resources compared to the village of Copilco,” Balcorta said.

Truncated cone graves were not only used for funeral purposes but also to store grains, artefacts and waste materials, he explained.

However, there is also evidence that indicates that at least two of the graves may have been used by women for everyday activities related to caring for their children, such as giving a herbal steam bath to a newborn baby.

That theory is supported by the discovery of more than 130 figurines in the graves, most of which represent pregnant women, while a smaller number are of infants. The ceramic pieces feature red, yellow and black colourings on their different body parts.

The INAH team has extracted samples from different parts of the graves to carry out chemical and pollen analyses aimed at confirming or rejecting the perinatal care hypothesis.

The archaeologists have also made discoveries from more recent times including remnants of ammunition used in the Mexican revolution and parts of adobe bricks and other building materials that formed part of a house that stood on the site at the end of the 19th century.

Because it is 2,296 meters above sea level, it is believed that the site was not affected by lava flows following the eruption of the Xitle Volcano between 245 and 315 AD and for that reason it has remained in well-conserved condition.

A 2,000-year-old tunnel in the Mexican city of Teotihuacan holds ancient mysteries

A 2,000-year-old tunnel in the Mexican city of Teotihuacan holds ancient mysteries

Eleven years after discovering a secret tunnel beneath the ancient city of Teotihuacan in Mexico, Researchers uncovered thousands of ritual objects at the feet of what might be a royal tomb.

Guarded by the remains of hundreds of sacrificial bodies, the entrance to the tunnel remained hidden until it was located by radar researchers from the National University of Mexico beneath one of Mexico’s most visited historical sites in 2003.

Before eventually hitting the tunnel entrance in 2010, they spent years preparing the exploration and raising funds. It seemed that the tunnel was closed on purpose by the inhabitants of the city. More than 40 feet below ground, the entrance was covered with rocks.

A 2,000-year-old tunnel in the Mexican city of Teotihuacan holds ancient mysteries
Sculptures unearthed by investigators at the Teotihuacan archaeological site in Mexico.

The tunnel, hundreds of feet long, follows a route of symbols leading to several sealed funeral chambers that may hold the bodies of ancient rulers.

Archaeologists first explored the tunnels, choked with mud and rubble, using a three-foot robot equipped with mechanical arms and a video camera. They then methodically catalogued every bone, seed and shard of pottery as they made their way to the crypts at the end.

“For a long time local and foreign archaeologists have attempted to locate the graves of the rulers of the ancient city, but the search has been fruitless,” archaeologist Sergio Gomez of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a 2010 press release.

Meanwhile, his team’s excavation of the tunnel suggested they were on the brink of uncovering the long-lost tombs.

A scanner view of a tunnel under a pyramid at the archaeological site.

“If confirmed, it will be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 21st century on a global scale,” he told the Associated Press in 2011.

Discoveries include finely carved stone sculptures, jewellery and shells along with obsidian blades and arrowheads.

They found offerings laid before the entrance of three chambers at the end of the tunnel suggesting these are the tombs of the elite.

So far Gomez’s team has excavated two feet into the chambers. The exploration will continue next year.

The Discovery of tombs may unlock long-held mysteries of a civilization that left no written records of its existence, including how it was governed and whether leadership was hereditary.

Shells unearthed by investigators.

“Due to the magnitude of the offerings that we’ve found, it can’t be in any other place,” Gomez said Wednesday. “We’ve been able to confirm all of the hypotheses we’ve made from the beginning.”

At its peak in the middle of the first century, Teotihuacan was the largest city in the Americas with an estimated 200,000 inhabitants.

The Aztecs, who arrived centuries after Teotihuacan had fallen, gave the city its name, which means “birthplace of the gods” in English.

Mexico to bury archaeological find because of virus costs

Mexico to bury archaeological find because of virus costs

The tunnel is part of a 2.5-mile-long network of dikes.

In a strange turn of events, researchers in Mexico have announced they plan to rebury an unusual archaeological monument found in the outskirts of Mexico City – covering up an important historical discovery until some unknown time in the future.

The discovery in question is a tunnel built centuries ago as part of the Albarradón de Ecatepec: a flood-control system of dikes and waterways constructed to protect the historical city of Tenochtitlan from rising waters.

Tenochtitlan, widely viewed as the capital of the Aztec Empire, featured numerous dam systems to prevent flooding from torrential rains, but Spanish conquistadors failed at first to appreciate the ingenuity of this indigenous infrastructure, destroying many of the pre-Hispanic constructions in the early years of Spanish colonization.

Mexico to bury archaeological find because of virus costs

However, after numerous floods inundated the early colonial Mexico City, the Albarradón de Ecatepec and other flood-control systems like it were built or repaired in the early 1600s.

Centuries later, archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered one such feature within the Albarradón de Ecatepec, finding in 2019 a tunnel that preserved a unique synthesis of the cultures that created it.

This small tunnel-gate measured just 8.4 meters (27.5 ft) long, representing only a tiny part of the colossal Albarradón de Ecatepec monument, which in total extended for 4 kilometres (2.5 miles), built by thousands of indigenous workers.

But while it was small, it was still an important (and unusual) discovery, with researchers finding several pre-Hispanic glyphs displayed in the structure.

In total, 11 symbols were discovered – including representations of a war shield, the head of a bird of prey, and raindrops, among others.

It’s thought the symbols may have been built into the tunnel by non-Hispanic residents from the towns of Ecatepec and Chiconautla, who helped to construct the Albarradón de Ecatepec.

A war shield and a bird of prey’s head are two of the Pre-Hispanic symbols discovered in the Mexican tunnel.

While the dike featured pre-Hispanic iconography, its overall architecture suggested the Spanish were in charge of the design.

“One objective of our project was to know the construction system of the road, which has allowed us to prove that it does not have pre-Hispanic methods, but rather semicircular arches and andesite voussoirs, lime and sand mortars, and a floor on the upper part, with stone and ashlar master lines,” researchers explained in 2019.

“Everything is Roman and Spanish influence.”

The discovery was intended to be made into a public exhibit so that people could visit and inspect this unusual, centuries-old fusion of Aztec and Spanish cultural elements, but unfortunately, it’s not to be.

Researchers from INAH have now announced that due to a lack of funds to properly construct the exhibit and protect the remarkable structure, the recently discovered tunnel section will now have to be covered up once more – with the tunnel to be reburied so that it doesn’t become damaged, vandalized, or looted from.

According to the researchers, the decision is largely due to the ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Mexico, which has so far claimed over 237,000 lives.

The researchers say they will construct special masonry to protect the glyphs, and then recover the painstakingly excavated site with earth.

It’s not every day archaeologists have to ‘undiscover’ the cultural treasures they reveal in the ground. Here’s hoping it won’t be too long before this section of the Albarradón de Ecatepec gets to see the light of day once more.

The Largest Confirmed Pyramid on Earth Dwarfs The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Largest Confirmed Pyramid on Earth Dwarfs The Great Pyramid of Giza

It is the largest pyramid on Earth, with a base four times larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza and almost doubles the volume. The Pyramid is recognized as the largest pyramid in volume with four million five hundred thousand cubic meters. It literally DWARFS the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Experts estimate that it took around 1,000 years for the Pyramid to be built. It is also so far, the largest monument ever built in the world, among all ancient civilizations. It still remains a mystery as to WHO built the Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula or Tlachihualtepetl –from the Nahuatl meaning “handmade hill”— is the largest pyramidal basement in the world with 450 meters per side. In fact, it is not a single pyramid at all, but one monument stacked on top of another, consisting of at least six buildings. It grew in stages, as successive civilizations improved what had already been built.

The Largest Confirmed Pyramid on Earth Dwarfs The Great Pyramid of Giza
Artist’s conception of what the pyramid might have looked like.

With 450 meters wide and 66 meters high, the Great Pyramid of Cholula is equivalent to nine Olympic swimming pools. However, the Great Pyramid of Cholula has an impressive list of records: it is the largest pyramid on Earth, with a base four times larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza and almost doubles the volume. It is also so far, the largest monument ever built in the world, among all civilizations.

Curiously, It is also officially recognized as the largest pyramid in volume with 4,500,000 m³, but it is not the tallest one; With  65 m high the  Great Pyramid of Cholula is similar to that of the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan which has 64, while the Great Pyramid of Giza In Egypt it has a height of 139.

The pyramid was built to appease the “feathered serpent” god
This view of the pyramid was taken in the early 20th century

While experts are unsure as to when exactly the Pyramid building process was begun, archaeologists believe it was around 300 BC or at the beginning of the Christian era.

It is estimated that it took between 500 and 1,000 years until the pyramid was finished.  According to legend, when the local inhabitants heard that the Spanish Conquistadores were approaching, the locals covered the sacred temple with dirt.

When Cortes and his men arrived in Cholula in October 1519, some 1,800 years after the pyramid was built, they massacred about 3,000 people in a single hour, 10% of the entire population of the city, and levelled many of their religious structures.

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

When the pavement was dug up in 2013 to enter the city’s drainage system, at least 63 skeletons were found from pre-colonial times

The Pyramid is a mind-bending structure, and it is so old that when Cortes and his men arrived in Mexico, the monument was already thousands of years old and completely covered by vegetation.

Strangely, first on-site excavations revealed a series of horrifying discoveries, including deformed skulls of decapitated children.

Curiously, little is known about the initial history of the pyramid. It is thought that construction began around 300 BC, but it remains a mystery who erected it.

According to legends, the Great Pyramid of Cholula was built by giants.

Archaeologists estimate that the Cholutecas participated in the construction.