Category Archives: MEXICO

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.”

1,000-year-old ‘lost’ pyramid city in the heart of Mexico was as densely built as Manhattan

1,000-year-old ‘lost’ pyramid city in the heart of Mexico was as densely built as Manhattan

Archaeology might evoke thoughts of intrepid explorers and painstaking digging, but in fact, researchers say it is a high-tech laser mapping technique that is rewriting the textbooks at an unprecedented rate.

An ancient city as densely built up as Manhattan has been discovered in the heart of Mexico, thanks to pioneering imaging techniques. Experts used lasers to send beams of light from an aircraft to the ground below, measuring the reflected pulses to build up a map of the region (pictured)

The approach, known as light detection and ranging scanning (lidar) involves directing a rapid succession of laser pulses at the ground from an aircraft. The time and wavelength of the pulses reflected by the surface are combined with GPS and other data to produce a precise, three-dimensional map of the landscape. Crucially, the technique probes beneath foliage – useful for areas where vegetation is dense.

Earlier this month researchers revealed it had been used to discover an ancient Mayan city within the dense jungles of Guatemala, while it has also helped archaeologists to map the city of Caracol – another Mayan metropolis.

Now, researchers have used the technique to reveal the full extent of an ancient city in western Mexico, about a half an hour’s drive from Morelia, built by rivals to the Aztecs.

“To think that this massive city existed in the heartland of Mexico for all this time and nobody knew it was there is kind of amazing,” said Chris Fisher, an archaeologist at Colorado State University who is presenting the latest findings from the study at the conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin.

While less well known than the Aztecs, the Purépecha were a major civilisation in central Mexico in the early 16th century, before Europeans arrived and wreaked havoc through war and disease. Purépecha cities included an imperial capital called Tzintzuntzan that lies on the edge of Lake Pátzcuaro in western Mexico, an area in which modern Purépecha communities still live.

Using lidar, researchers have found that the recently-discovered city, known as Angamuco, was more than double the size of Tzintzuntzan – although probably not as densely populated – extending over 26 km2 of ground that was covered by a lava flow thousands of years ago.

“That is a huge area with a lot of people and a lot of architectural foundations that are represented,” said Fisher. “If you do the maths, all of a sudden you are talking about 40,000 building foundations up there, which is [about] the same number of building foundations that are on the island of Manhattan.”

The team also found that Angamuco has an unusual layout. Monuments such as pyramids and open plazas are largely concentrated in eight zones around the city’s edges, rather being located in one large city centre. According to Fisher, more than 100,000 people are thought to have lived in Angamuco in its heyday between about 1000AD to 1350AD. “[Its size] would make it the biggest city that we know of right now in western Mexico during this period,” said Fisher.

First found by researchers in 2007, archaeologists initially attempted to explore Angamuco using a traditional “boots on the ground” approach, resulting in the discovery of about 1,500 architectural features over each square kilometre surveyed. But the team soon realised the rugged terrain meant it would take at least a decade to map the whole area.

Instead, since 2011 the lidar technique has been used to map a 35km2 area, revealing an astonishing array of features at high resolution, from pyramids and temples to road systems, garden areas for growing food and even ball courts.

So far more than 7,000 architectural features over a 4km2 area seen using lidar have been verified by the team on the ground, with excavations undertaken at seven locations to shed further light on the site.

The earliest evidence from the city, including ceramic fragments and radiocarbon dating of remnants from offerings, dates to about 900AD, with the city believed to have undergone two waves of development and one of collapse before the arrival of the Spanish.

Lidar has been used before by archaeologists to unearth hidden cities in the Americas. Earlier this month images were released by researchers from Brown University showing an ancient Mayan ‘megalopolis’ in Guatemala, which now lies buried beneath the jungle foliage

Fisher adds that lidar is likely to lead to further developments. “Everywhere you point the lidar instrument you find new stuff, and that is because we know so little about the archaeological universe in the Americas right now,” he said. “Right now every textbook has to be rewritten, and two years from now[they’re] going to have to be rewritten again.”

Fisher has also used lidar to explore a remote area of the Mosquitia region of north-eastern Honduras, shedding light on what is now known as the City of the Jaguar. This settlement, the team found, had terraces, water control features such as canals, and boasted about 10 plaza complexes, with the whole city stretching over three square kilometres.

“Many of these areas of the Americas that we see today that we think that we would classify as pristine tropical forests are really abandoned gardens,” says Fisher.

However, previous coverage of the work has proved controversial, with some saying claims of a “lost city” smack of colonialist rhetoric. Elizabeth Graham, professor of mesoamerican archaeology at University College London who was not involved in the projects, said the team’s work was impressive, and that lidar was backing up long-held suspicions about the size of archaeological settlements.

“Once it shows all traces of the land surface, we can interpret those, because you can tell what is natural and what is not,” she added. “It’ll show you terracing, where houses are – or at least structures of some sort – agricultural features, manipulated land – all of that.”

But, she said, while lidar can help to direct expeditions and digs, traditional techniques were still needed to unearth the details. “Ultimately we still have to get on the ground and then excavate,” she said.

15-year-old boy discovers lost ancient Mayan city

15-year-old boy discovers lost ancient Mayan city

A 15-year-old school student from Quebec, Canada, William Gadoury discovered something that archaeologists have been covering for centuries-a nearly abandoned Mayan civilization settlement, hidden deep within the Yucatan jungle of Southeastern Mexico.

Gadoury has named the newly discovered Mayan metropolis K’aak Chi, after reading about their 2012 apocalypse prediction.

He didn’t do it by hiring a bunch of expensive equipment, hopping on a plane, and slaving away on an excavation site – he discovered the incredible ruins from the comfort of his own home, by figuring out that the ancient cities were built in alignment with the stars above.

“I did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands and in the mountains,” Gadoury told French-Canadian magazine, Journal de Montréal.

“They had to have another reason, and as they worshipped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realised that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.”

Gadoury had been studying 22 Maya constellations for years before releasing that he could line up the positions of 117 Maya cities on the ground with maps of stars and constellations above –  something that no one had pieced together before. 

With this in mind, he located a 23rd constellation, which included just three stars. According to his sky map, he could only link up two cities with the three stars, so suspected that a third city remained undetected in that spot.  

Satellite images compared with Google Earth show potentially man-made structures beneath the jungle canopy.

Unfortunately, the location on the ground that matched up with the third star wasn’t exactly somewhere that Gadoury could just go visit – it’s right in the heart of the jungle, in the inaccessible and remote region of Mexico’s southern Yucatán Peninsula.

Not that stopped Gadoury – he knew that a fire had stripped much of the forest in the area back in 2005, which meant that from above, you might have an easier time spotting ancient ruins than if the canopy had been thriving for the past couple of thousand years.

All he needed to do was access satellite imagery of the area from the Canadian Space Agency, which he mapped onto Google Earth images to see if there were any signs of his lost city.

Further analyses from satellites belonging to NASA and the Japanese Space Agency revealed what looks like a pyramid and 30 buildings at the location mapped by the star, Yucatan Expat Life reports

William Gadoury, 15, explains his theory of the existence of a Mayan city still unknown in Mexico before scientists at the Canadian Space Agency.

As Daniel De Lisle from the Canadian Space Agency told Samuel Osborne at The Independent, the satellite images revealed certain linear features on the forest floor that looked anything but natural. “There are enough items to suggest it could be a man-made structure,” he said. 

Gadoury has tentatively named the lost city K’àak’ Chi’, meaning “fire mouth”, and will be working with researchers from the Canadian Space Agency to get his discovery published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Now, we don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble here, but while things look promising from those satellite images, nothing can be confirmed until experts can access the site and see the remains up close.

A team of archaeologists is now figuring out how to make that happen, and one of the researchers involved in the project, Armand LaRocque from the University of New Brunswick, told the Journal de Montréal that if they can get the funds to organise an excavation, they’ll be taking Gadoury along for sure. 

“It would be the culmination of my three years of work and the dream of my life,” said Gadoury, and suddenly we feel incredibly inadequate that the best thing we did at 15 was hand in most of our assignments on time.

Update: In a strange development, a scientist familiar with the Mexican region where the odd, city-like features have been discovered says at least one of them is either an abandoned cornfield – or a covert marijuana operation.

“We’ve visited them, and my grad students know them quite well,” anthropologist Geoffrey E. Braswell from the University of California San Diego’s Mesoamerican Archaeology Laboratory told George Dvorsky at Gizmodo. “They’re not Maya pyramids.”

No word yet on what this means for Armand LaRocque’s planned expedition to the site, but things aren’t looking good for Gadoury’s science fair entry at this stage. But Braswell has praised his curiosity and told The Washinton Post he hopes he ends up at his university to study.

At least 200 mammoth skeletons discovered under the Mexico City airport site

At least 200 mammoth skeletons discovered under the Mexico City airport site

At an airport construction facility north of Mexico City, the number of mammouth skeletons recovered increased to at least 200 and still many are to be excavated, said experts on Thursday. 

Paleontologists work Thursday to preserve the skeleton of a mammoth discovered at the construction site of Mexico City’s new airport.

Archeologists hope the site that has become “mammoth central” — the shores of an ancient lake bed that both attracted and trapped mammoths in its marshy soil — may help solve the riddle of their extinction.

Experts said that finds are still being made at the site, including signs that humans may have made tools from the bones of the lumbering animals that died somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 years ago.

There are so many mammoths at the site of the new Santa Lucia airport that observers have to accompany each bulldozer that digs into the soil to make sure work is halted when mammoth bones are uncovered.

“We have about 200 mammoths, about 25 camels, five horses,” said archeologist Rubén Manzanilla López of the National Institute of Anthropology and History, referring to animals that went extinct in the Americas.

The site is only about 12 miles from artificial pits, essentially shallow mammoth traps, that were dug by early inhabitants to trap and kill dozens of mammoths.

Manzanilla López said evidence is beginning to emerge suggesting that even if the mammoths at the airport died natural deaths after becoming stuck in the mud of the ancient lake bed, their remains may have been carved up by humans. Something similar happened at the mammoth-trap site in the hamlet of San Antonio Xahuento, in the nearby township of Tultepec.

While tests are still being carried out on the mammoth bones to try to find possible butchering marks, archeologists have found dozens of mammoth-bone tools — usually shafts used to hold other tools or cutting implements — like ones in Tultepec.

“Here we have found evidence that we have the same kind of tools, but until we can do the laboratory studies to see marks of these tools or possible tools, we can’t say we have evidence that is well-founded,” Manzanilla López said.

Paleontologist Joaquin Arroyo Cabrales said the airport site “will be a very important site to test hypotheses” about the mass extinction of mammoths.

“What caused these animals’ extinction, everywhere there is a debate, whether it was climate change or the presence of humans,” Arroyo Cabrales said. “I think in the end the decision will be that there was a synergy effect between climate change and human presence.”

Ashley Leger, a paleontologist at the California-based Cogstone Resource Management company, who was not involved in the dig, noted that such natural death groupings “are rare.

A very specific set of conditions that allow for a collection of remains in an area but also be preserved as fossils must be met. There needs to be a means for them to be buried rapidly and experience low oxygen levels.”

The site near Mexico City now appears to have outstripped the Mammoth Site at Hot Springs, S.D. — which has about 61 sets of remains — as the world’s largest find of mammoth bones. Large concentrations have also been found in Siberia and at Los Angeles’ La Brea tar pits.

For now, the mammoths seem to be everywhere at the site and the finds may slow down, but not stop, work on the new airport.

Mexican Army Capt. Jesus Cantoral, who oversees efforts to preserve remains at the army-led construction site, said “a large number of excavation sites” are still pending detailed study, and that observers have to accompany backhoes and bulldozers every time they break ground at a new spot.

The airport project is so huge, he noted, that the machines can just go work somewhere else while archeologists study a specific area. The airport project is scheduled for completion in 2022, at which point the dig will end.

Long lost palace and death site of Moctezuma II discovered in Mexico

Long lost palace and death site of Moctezuma II discovered in Mexico

The remains of an Aztec palace where emperor Moctezuma II was held captive by the Spanish and killed in 1520 has been discovered in Mexico City. 

Archaeologists found the remains of a basalt slab floor from the Aztec palace.

Historical records say that the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes took Moctezuma II (also known as Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, sometimes also spelled Montezuma) hostage and held him in the palace in an attempt to force the emperor to control the Aztec population.

The people quickly rebelled and laid siege to the Spaniards in the palace. The Spanish tried to quell the rebellion by having Moctezuma II address the rebels from a palace balcony, but the rebels refused to stop their siege and the emperor was killed in the crossfire. 

The Spanish conquistadors eventually destroyed the rebel forces along with the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan (where modern-day Mexico City is located).

The surviving Aztec people were forced to build a new city over the ruins of Tenochtitlan.

A house for Cortes, which was also discovered by archaeologists during the excavation, was built over the remains of the palace. 

Sculptures from the Aztec palace were reused to build the house of conquistador Hernan Cortes.
This palace was built from the remains of the destroyed Aztec palace.

Reusing sculptures

They found the palace remains — which include basalt slab floors that may have been part of a plaza — beneath an 18th-century pawn shop. The archaeologists also found that sculptures from the palace were reused like blocks to build Hernan Cortes’ house. 

One sculpture depicts “a feathered serpent” that appears to show Quetzalcóatl, a god that had been widely worshipped across Mesoamerica for millennia prior to the Spanish conquest, archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said in a statement.

Another sculpture that depicts “a headdress of feathers” also appears to be from the palace and was also reused to build Cortes house, the archaeologists found. 

The discovery of the palace and Cortes’ house “revives the memory of those historical events, five centuries later” the archaeologists said in the statement. 

They made the discoveries during excavation work conducted beneath the National Monte de Piedad, a pawnshop founded in 1775 that aimed to make it easier for the poor to borrow money. 

The excavation work was carried out prior to renovation work being done on the building. Today, the Nacional Monte de Piedad is a nonprofit foundation that performs a wide range of charitable work throughout Mexico.