Category Archives: MEXICO

World’s biggest pyramid isn’t in Egypt – it’s hidden under a hill in Mexico

World’s biggest pyramid isn’t in Egypt – it’s hidden under a hill in Mexico

While Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza is by far the most talked-about pyramid in the world, it isn’t the biggest by a long shot. That title goes to the Great Pyramid of Cholula – an ancient Aztec temple in Puebla, Mexico with a base four times larger than Giza’s, and nearly 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 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.

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).

World’s biggest pyramid isn’t in Egypt – it’s hidden under a hill in Mexico

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.  

The secret cave lies hidden below the enormous ‘Moon Pyramid’

The secret cave lies hidden below the enormous ‘Moon Pyramid’

An underground cave hidden under a Mexican pyramid provides clues about Teotihuacan’s urban architecture, one of the oldest and most vibrant cities of ancient times. Located about 80 kilometres outside present-day Mexico City, Teotihuacan peaked long before the Aztecs in AD 300-650. Three monumental pyramids were arranged along the 2.4-kilometre ‘Path of the Dead’ in the area.

Two of the pyramids had already been known to overlie caves and tunnels, which were excavated by Teotihuacanos to procure building materials, and were later rebuilt for activities such as astronomical observation, veneration of death and the enthronement of rulers.

Denisse Argote at the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City and her colleagues measured the electrical resistance of the ground beneath the third structure, the 43-meter-high Moon Pyramid.

The sprawling Moon Pyramid at Teotihuacan, Mexico, was dedicated to the feminine deity of water, according to one theory.

They discovered a partially filled cavern about 15 meters underneath the edifice.

Unlike the other caves, this one seems to have formed naturally. Argote and her colleagues think the first settlers of Teotihuacan might have chosen it to be the focal point from which the rest of the city was planned.

Hard Science Unlocks Secrets of Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon

Previous archaeological digs at Teotihuacan have revealed a series of man-made tunnels beneath the Pyramids of the Sun and of Quetzalcoatl, the latter of which is also called the Temple of the Feathered-Serpent.

These had mostly been excavated for construction materials in upper structures, and according to a report in Heritage Daily, these tunnels were later “repurposed for astronomical observations and for venerating death in the underworld.”

The team of scientists applied ERT and ANT surveys, which are non-invasive geophysical techniques analyzing the electrical resistance of the ground beneath the structure.

They identified a natural void beneath the Pyramid of the Moon and a partially filled cavern at a depth of 15 meters (49 ft.) Contrasting with the man-made tunnels beneath the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan, the researchers believe that the cave under the Pyramid of the Moon “formed naturally,” and had been a focal point for the early settlers, in turn, influencing how the city was planned out.

Otherworldly Architectural Town Planning

The discovery under Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Moon help’s explain the city’s urban design.

With the placement of the pyramid at the end of the Avenue of the Dead, at the foot of Cerro Gordo, shaped to reflect the contours of these mountains, the researchers theorize that it was “symbolic of a connection between the avenue and the watery underworld, whereas the mountain serves as an anchor to the earth.” They said the impact of this discovery opens a discussion about the original planning of Teotihuacan’s urban design.

The first human establishment in the area dates back to around 600 BC when farmers began tilling the Teotihuacan Valley, which at that time had a total population of about 6,000 inhabitants.

However, due to the development of successful agricultural technologies, from 100 BC to 750 AD, Teotihuacan morphed into a huge urban and administrative centre with cultural influences throughout Mesoamerica.

Mapping the Ancient Underworld

Period III, from 350 to 650 AD, the so-called classical period of Teotihuacan, had an estimated 125,000 inhabitants. At that time it was one of the largest cities of the ancient world – with over 2,000 buildings in an 18 square kilometre (6.95 sq. mile) area.

This period saw the massive reconstruction of monuments; including the decorating of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent which dates back to an earlier period.

Period IV, between 650 and 750 AD, marks the end of Teotihuacan as a major power in Mesoamerica. The remains of the homes of the city’s elites, which line the Avenue of the Dead, bear burn marks which lead archaeologists to hypothesize that the city experienced waves of violent social unrest that brought about the city’s decline.

What the newly discovered cave system essentially does is answer the question “why” the first settlers stopped here and started building precisely where they did, and not say 10 miles east or five miles south.

The cave beneath the pyramid suggests that people revered this natural access to the underworld so much that around it they built one of the most influential and biggest cities of the ancient world.

And the remains of that vast crumbling ancient city, which was aligned with the Sun, moon, and stars, it would seem, is a 1:1 map of the underworld – with the Avenue of the Dead acting as the main channel to the other side.

Geologists Map Secret Tunnel And Chamber Found Beneath Aztec Pyramid

Geologists Map Secret Tunnel And Chamber Found Beneath Aztec Pyramid

“Teotihuacan, translated from the Aztec language as “birthplace of the gods,” or “a place where gods were born,” was a very important religious and cultural center during the Aztec empire.

Less than a decade ago, archaeologists uncovered an almost 60-foot Vertical shaft under the Avenue of the Dead.

Excavation of the tunnels beneath the Avenue was not possible, but in 2017 a team of geologists used electrical resistivity mapping to map the underground beneath the Avenue of the Dead.

Panoramic view from the summit of the Pyramid of the Moon, with the “Avenue of the Dead”, in Teotihuacan.

This archaeological site in modern-day Mexico is famous for its broad central “Avenue of the Dead,” surrounded by a dozen pyramids and platforms. The 150 feet high Pyramid of the Moon was built in successive phases and construction completed between 200 and 250 CE. The nearby Pyramid of the Sun is even higher at 216 feet.

Excavation revealed a system of tunnels and chambers. Human remains and diverse objects made from green obsidian, a type of volcanic rock used in religious rituals, were recovered.

A worker removes dirt from a tunnel discovered under the Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent. So far, 70,000 objects of interest have been found there.

The extent of this tunnel-system remains uncertain to this day. Archaeologists suspected that the tunnels follow the pattern of the streets and pyramids on the surface.

As excavation of the complete site was not possible, in 2017 a team of geologists used electrical resistivity imaging to map the underground beneath the Avenue of the Dead.

Electrical resistivity imaging is a geophysical technique used also on other archaeological sites to map the composition of the underground, revealing large subterranean cavities or the presence of groundwater.

The researchers discovered a tunnel at a depth of 26 feet, that starting from the center of the avenue runs to 49 feet in diameter large cavity hidden beneath the Pyramid of the Moon.

Electrical resistivity data visualization under the Pyramid of the Moon.

The age and the use of this network of tunnels and chambers remain uncertain. The walls of the excavated tunnels were covered with pyrite powder.

Visitors would see the grains of this yellow mineral glitter in the light of torches, an effect resembling the stars of the celestial sphere. It was suggested that the tunnel-system acted as a symbolic gateway, connecting the sky with the underworld, and played an important role in religious rites.

The origin of the tunnel-system – and the city – are still being studied.  Centuries later, the Aztecs built some towns on the site of the ancient city, but it’s not yet clear if they used the preexisting tunnel-system.

Around 300 CE, the tunnels appear to have been sealed off and nobody knows why or what the chamber may hide.

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

According to George Cowgill, an archaeologist at Arizona State University and a National Geographic Society grantee—Teotihuacan, a famous archaeological site less than 30 miles (50 kilometres) from Mexico City, Teotihuacan reached its zenith about 100 B.C. And A.D. 650.

It covered 8 square miles (21 square kilometres) and supported a population of a hundred thousand.

“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.

Golden Eagle Sculpture Unearthed in Aztec Temple

Golden Eagle Sculpture Unearthed in Aztec Temple

According to a statement released by Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), archaeologists led by Rodolfo Aguilar Tapia have uncovered a bas-relief sculpture of a golden eagle in the floor of the Aztec chapel dedicated to Huitzilopochtli at the Templo Mayor.

The well-preserved floor surface was covered during an expansion of the temple before the arrival of the Spanish in Tenochtitlan in the sixteenth century, Tapia explained.

“From what we have seen through photographs, it is a very beautiful piece that shows the great secrets that the Templo Mayor of Mexico Tenochtitlan has yet to reveal to us. I want to extend my appreciation to the INAH archaeologists who collaborate in this space, since, thanks to their effort and dedication, we can continue to recover our history and our memory.

Due to the health contingency, the fieldwork has had to be postponed, however, it is clear that there is also an important work of research and academic reflection that has not stopped “, said the Secretary of Culture, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, about this notable finding.

Although it was in February 2020 when a multidisciplinary team concluded the release and cleaning of this itzcuauhtli , a Nahua voice that means “obsidian eagle”, and with which the Mexica referred to the golden eagle ( Aquila chrysaetos canadensis ), it is now, when his investigation in the cabinet has been deepened, the finding is made known.

Carved on red tezontle and with dimensions of 1.06 meters long by 70 centimetres wide, this bas-relief is the largest in a set of 67 similar elements found so far in the Templo Mayor.

According to specialists, the relevance of the sculpture is denoted not only by its size and finish but also by its location, at the foot of the most important building for the Mexica and in the central axis that crosses the ‘chapel’ of Huitzilopochtli and the monumental sculpture of the goddess Coyolxauhqui. It is also close to Cuauhxicalco, a circular building whose name translates as “place of the eagle’s gourd”, where, according to 16th-century documents, the ritual cremations of the Tenochca rulers were carried out.

Golden Eagle Sculpture Unearthed in Aztec Temple
At 1.06 meters long and 70 centimeters wide, it is the largest of the set of similar sculptural pieces found so far. It was located at the foot of the Templo Mayor, in the central axis of the ‘chapel’ dedicated to Huitzilopochtli; would correspond to the government of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina (1440-1469 AD)

Regarding the discovery of the bas-relief, the archaeologist assigned to the PTM, Rodolfo Aguilar Tapia, who investigated the piece together with the interns in archaeology Mary Laidy Hernández Ramírez and Karina López Hernández; and in physical anthropology, Jacqueline Castro Irineo, from the National School of Anthropology and History, reported that it was verified during the ninth field season of the PTM.

This season, directed by the head of the Project, the archaeologist Leonardo López Luján, has focused on exploring under the ‘liga bridge’ that connects the streets of Guatemala and Argentina, wherein pre-Hispanic times the west plaza of the Sacred Precinct was located of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. The sculptural carving was part of a floor of that space, which would have been in use during the government of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, between the years 1440 and 1469 of our era.

“This floor is unique in the entire Templo Mayor as it contains bas-reliefs that allude to the dual conception of the building. On the south side, where we are exploring, there are elements like this eagle, linked to the mythical cycle of the birth of Huitzilopochtli; while to the north, the bas-reliefs located earlier —the first in 1900 by Leopoldo Batres, and the later by the PTM and the Urban Archeology Program (PAU) – contain representations associated with Tláloc, the water cycle and the regeneration of corn “.

Aguilar Tapia specifies that thanks to the work carried out by archaeologists Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Leonardo López Luján, today there is a defined stratigraphic correspondence, which allows researchers to know in which construction stage of the Templo Mayor the findings are located, and at what time belong the same.

Thus, he exemplifies, when the exploration at the aforementioned intersection began, the floor that the archaeologists saw was from Stage VI of the Templo Mayor, corresponding to the government of Ahuítzotl between 1486 and 1502, while now, after meticulous excavations, specialists have managed to reach Stage IV-a, that is, they have gone back in time to the 1440s and to the period of government of Motecuhzoma I.

The aforementioned plaza floor was covered since pre-Hispanic times during the expansion of the Templo Mayor. “That is why it has a good state of conservation,” says the researcher, noting that “it is an element that was never seen by the Spanish.”

The symbolism of the golden eagle

The pause in the fieldwork that the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it, allowed the PTM researchers to carry out the investigation of various elements, including the bas-relief. Among other aspects, the iconographic representations that exist of the golden eagle in historical sources such as the codices were studied, in order to correlate them with the sculpture discovered at the foot of the Templo Mayor.

One of those representations, Aguilar Tapia points out, is in Plate 50 of the Codex Borgia, where a golden eagle is shown posing on top of a mesquite tree, a tree that rises from a stark deity. “The interesting thing is that this image is iconographically very similar to the bas-relief that we find in the field, in both representations the feathers end in the shape of sacrificial knives, which allude to the Nahua name of the bird: obsidian eagle.”

For the Mexica, this bird of prey was closely related to war and sacrifice, while it was considered a nahual of the sun and, therefore, also of its tutelary god, Huitzilopochtli.

In the incoming seasons of the PTM field, the researcher concludes, the actions will focus on completing the exploration of the floor where the bas-relief is located to look for more others and then, with extreme care, temporarily remove them and be able to investigate under them in search of offerings or other architectural elements. “After all this exploratory process, with the support of restoration specialists, we will place each bas-relief in its precise place”, he concludes.

Similar elements could also be found when the excavations around Cuauhxicalco are resumed. The intention of the PTM is that, after its investigation, the bas-reliefs can be shown to the public in their original position: at the west foot of the Templo Mayor.

Experts find 2,000 ruin sites near the Maya train route project in Mexico

Experts find 2,000 ruin sites near the Maya train route project in Mexico

Archaeologists in Mexico have provided a study from specialists that cites have more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins or clusters of artifacts along the planned path of the president’s controversial “Maya Train” project on the Yucatan peninsula.

The discovery of sites using LiDAR elevation mapping technology could slow down the already disputed project, which opponents contend also threatens indigenous communities and water supplies.

The laser elevation data showed a total of 2,187 “archaeological monuments” along 277 miles (366 kilometers) of the proposed route, about one-quarter of the total planned track. Experts already knew about the existence of some of the sites, but some are new.

Tourists walk at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Experts in Mexico said Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020, that they have detected more than 2,000 pre-Hispanic ruins or clusters of artefacts along the proposed route of the president’s controversial Maya Train project on the Yucatan peninsula, which could slow down the already disputed project

The term “monuments” can mean many things, ranging from the remains of a pre-Hispanic Maya home, or carved stones, all the way up to remains of temple platforms.

It was not clear how many of each type of artifact was detected, but Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said at least 91 were large-scale structures like plazas, pyramid or temple platforms.

Mayan houses were generally relatively insubstantial, with stone bases topped by thatch and wooden structures of which little remains.

The institute said in a statement that the builders of the train would have to take “specific measures” to avoid damaging the artifacts, but did not say whether that meant parts would have to be re-routed.

In July, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador inaugurated the start of construction on the “Maya Train,” a pet project of his that would run some 950 miles (about 1,500 kilometers) in a rough loop around Yucatan.

The train is intended to connect Caribbean beach resorts to the peninsula’s interior, with largely indigenous populations and ruin sites, in a bid to stimulate economic development around its 15 stations. The government says it will cost as much as $6.8 billion, but others say it will be much more.

Critics say Lopez Obrador rammed through the project without adequate study of its effects on the environment, underground sinkhole caves known as cenotes, and ruin sites.

Some stretches of the route already have tracks, and the institute said some artifacts had already been disturbed by railway construction decades ago.

But other stretches are to push through sensitive jungle terrain, though they will parallel existing roads or transmission lines. Even where an old railway line exists, the project would imply updating tracks and building new stations.

Some Mayan communities have filed court challenges against the project, arguing that it will cause environmental damage. They also say they were not adequately consulted about it or they will not share in its benefits.

LiDAR, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, involves shooting a pulsed laser at the ground to get a high-resolution, detailed image of the surface, even through dense vegetation.

The Mayas formed a sprawling empire of city-states across the Yucatan and Central America between 2,000 B.C. and A.D. 900, and their descendants still live on the peninsula.

Aztec skull tower: Archaeologists unearth new sections in Mexico City

Aztec skull tower: Archaeologists unearth new sections in Mexico City

More sections of an extraordinary Aztec tower of human skulls have been excavated by archaeologists in the centre of Mexico City. The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico said a further 119 skulls had been uncovered.

Aztec skull tower: Archaeologists unearth new sections in Mexico City
A photo shows parts of an Aztec tower of human skulls, believed to form part of the Huey Tzompantli, a massive array of skulls that struck fear into the Spanish conquistadores.

While restoring a building in the Mexican capital, the tower was discovered in 2015. It is thought to be part of the temple’s skull rack for the Aztec god of the sun, war, and human sacrifice.

Known as the Huey Tzompantli, the skull rack stood on the corner of the chapel of Huitzilopochtli, the patron of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.

The Aztecs were a group of Nahuatl-speaking peoples that dominated large parts of central Mexico from the 14th to the 16th centuries.

Their empire was overthrown by invaders led by the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who captured Tenochtitlan in 1521.

A photo shows parts of an Aztec tower of human skulls, believed to form part of the Huey Tzompantli, at the Templo Mayor archaeology site, in Mexico City.

A similar structure to the Huey Tzompantli struck fear in the soldiers accompanying the Spanish conqueror when they invaded the city.

The cylindrical structure is near the huge Metropolitan Cathedral built over the Templo Mayor, one of the main temples of Tenochtitlan, now modern-day Mexico City.

“The Templo Mayor continues to surprise us, and the Huey Tzompantli is without doubt one of the most impressive archaeological finds of recent years in our country,” Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto said.

Archaeologists have identified three construction phases of the tower, which dates back to between 1486 and 1502.

The tower’s original discovery surprised anthropologists, who had been expecting to find the skulls of young male warriors but also unearthed the crania of women and children, raising questions about human sacrifice in the Aztec Empire.

“Although we can’t say how many of these individuals were warriors, perhaps some were captives destined for sacrificial ceremonies,” said archaeologist Raul Barrera.

“We do know that they were all made sacred,” he added. “Turned into gifts for the gods or even personifications of deities themselves.”

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.