Category Archives: MEXICO

Native American 14th-century’ sweat lodge’ discovered in Mexico City

Native American 14th-century’ sweat lodge’ discovered in Mexico City

Archaeologists in Mexico City’s ancient La Merced district have unearthed a pre-Hispanic mesoamerican sauna from the 14th century.

The BBC reports that several primary sections of the ancient sweat lodge still exist remarkably intact.

The Mesoamericans of the period built these ancestral saunas, known as temazcals, for medicinal, spiritual, and fertility purposes and rituals. Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (NIAH) said the find clarified a slew of historical questions.

Unearthing the pre-Hispanic site helped experts locate Temazcaltitlán — one of the very first settled areas of the ancient city of Tenochtitlán. The site was primarily used for purification ceremonies for the ill, for warriors after a battle, and for ensuring successful childbirth.

A foundation house and a colonial tannery were found at the site, as well.

Alongside practical purification purposes, these saunas served as a place to recover after the battle, prepare for childbirth, and worship goddesses of lust, vice, land, water, and more.

Researchers believe Mexica nobles — the Mexica were the indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico who comprised the Aztec Empire between 1428 and 1521 — lived in the former between 1521 and 1620, while the tannery is currently dated to between 1720 and 1820.

For excavation lead Víctor Esperón Calleja, these discoveries have shed enormous light on the region’s history and culture.

“Tenochtitlán was divided into four parts and we are in the part called Teopan in a neighborhood called Temazcaltitlán where the sweat lodges were,” he said. “The [house and tannery] findings suggest that in the 16th century this area was more populated than we initially thought.”

The foundations of a house and a tannery were discovered at the site, as well. Experts believe a noble family lived in the home after Hernán Cortés conquered the city of Tenochtitlán from Moctezuma II in 1521.

The house, built after the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés took the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán and defeated Moctezuma II in 1521, was decorated with red motifs on the interior walls.

Researchers believe its owners were a noble and respected family. Tenochtitlán was, after all, a major metropolis home to a wide stratum of social and economic classes in Aztec society.

“The site is part of a protected area and that is why Archaeological Rescue Office of the INAH has intervened,” said Calleja in reference to the INAH taking the lead on this discovery.

Many of the sauna’s main components, such as the pits themselves, have remained intact for centuries.

In terms of the temazcal’s size, INAH confirmed the foundation is 16.4 feet long and 9.7 feet wide. A bathtub and a bench were built into its walls, the discovery of which lends credence to another known historical record.

An Aztec record says that a Mexica noblewoman named Quetzalmoyahuatzin regularly bathed in a temazcal before giving birth. Now that a sweat lodge like the one described in this record has actually been discovered, that written document is largely verified as fact.

Researchers believe the whole neighborhood was one centered on worship, and not just of Tlazolteotl — the Aztec deity dedicated to purification, steam baths, lust, and vice.

Lead excavator on the project Víctor Esperón Calleja explained that the Archaeological Rescue Office of the INAH took over because the site is located in a historically protected area.

Other deities such as Ixcuina, the goddess of labor, Ayopechtli, the goddess of birth itself, and goddesses who represented land or water — such as Coatlicue, Toci, Chalchiuhtlicue, and Mayahuel — were honored there, too.

As it stands, there may be further revelations stemming from this discovery that’ll contextualize this history even more.

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

Archeologists in the Mexico City district of Azcapotzalco have discovered the base of the pre-Hispanic house and other building remnants of an ancient settlement.

In a declaration, the INAH confirmed that the finds in the historic center of the northern borough were part of the ancient altépetl, or city-state, of Mexicapan.

The city came into being when inhabitants of the Aztec or Mexica, capital of Tenochtitlán conquered the dominion of Azcapotzalco in 1428 and divided it into two autonomous settlements – Mexicapan and Tepanecapan.

The “domestic platform,” as INAH describes the foundations of the home, and the other structural remains are believed to have been part of a residential neighborhood within Mexicapan that was occupied by the city’s elite.

Measuring eight meters by six meters, the stone foundations of the pre-Hispanic house are among the largest ever found in Azcapotzalco, said INAH archaeologist Nancy Domínguez Rosas. The archaeological rescue team she heads also unearthed the remains of stone walls on the perimeter of the platform that measures between 50 and 70 centimeters.

The discovery is located in the historic center of Azcapotzalco.

The foundation is well preserved, Domínguez said, although the wall remains show signs of damage from more recent construction.

Archaeologists believe that the platform was built in two separate stages, the first of which corresponds to the late post-classic period between 1350 and 1519 AD. When the second phase of construction took place has not yet been determined.

Archaeologists found the platform while working alongside a municipal government team that was installing a tension fabric structure on Paseo de las Hormigas (Promenade of the Ants), which is part of the Azcapotzalco Park.

Domínguez said that 31 holes between one and two meters deep were dug for the slab foundations of the shade structure.

The structural remains of the Mexicapan neighborhood were discovered at a depth of 1.2 to two meters in front of the Azcapotzalco market, she said.

In addition to the domestic platform, archaeologists discovered the remains of other residential structures including one that measures 1.72 by 1.75 meters. All of the structures were made out of high-quality materials, leading archaeologists to conclude that they housed the elite and upper classes of Mexicapan society.

The archaeological rescue team has also discovered artifacts made out of both stone and bones.

Domínguez said the presence of the INAH team while the municipal employees are working in the area ensures that archaeological remains are not damaged, adding that archaeologists will continue to work to determine if there are any more pre-Hispanic structures in the area.

After they have been examined, the structures will be covered with geotextile, soil, and limestone to avoid their deterioration.

The discovery of such remains allows archaeologists “to recover information and contrast it with the information provided by historical sources,” Domínguez said, adding that the aim is to develop a greater understanding of “the way of life” of the residents of Mexicapan.

She also said that there is evidence that there were chinampas, or floating gardens, in the elite neighborhood and that human burials took place there.

The information . . . helps us to gradually reconstruct the puzzle of the urban configuration of Azcapotzalco in the pre-Hispanic era,” Domínguez said.

More Than 3,500 Copper Coins Repatriated to Mexico

More Than 3,500 Copper Coins Repatriated to Mexico

3,500 tongue-like copper coins were handed over to Mexican authorities in the United States. Mexico daily news Reported.

One of the copper coins being returned to Mexico.
One of the copper coins being returned to Mexico.

The Mexican Consulate Jessica Cascante in Miami said the coins are thought to have been used in what are now the southwestern Mexican states of Guerrero and Michoacán between A.D. 1200 and 1500. 

The United States returned a collection of over 3,500 pre-Hispanic copper coins to Mexican authorities in a ceremony in Miami on Monday.

A U.S. collector acquired them in Texas at a numismatic fair in the 1960s, she said, but at that time neither Mexico nor the United States was part of a UNESCO convention that guarantees the return of such heritage artifacts to their countries of origin.

Cascante said the fragile, tongue-shaped coins, which are currently covered in verdigris, will be sent to Mexico in January.

Agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) who headed the operation to recover the coins attended the presentation ceremony along with the Consul General of Mexico in Miami, Jonathan Chait.

The collection consists of over 3,500 coins.

Mexican authorities notified the FBI of the existence of the coins in 2013 when they were taken to Spain for an auction.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) then began authenticating the coins in order to request their return.

As both countries were by then signatories to the UNESCO convention (Mexico in 1972 and the United States in 1983), the return process was completed six years later.

Cascante did not divulge the name of the collector who obtained the coins in the 1960s, but said that he did so before it constituted a crime and turned them involuntarily.

“Now we’re just waiting for the physical material to arrive [in Mexico],” she said, adding that they are currently being packaged with the support of specialists from history museums in Florida.

This is the World’s largest pyramid, and it’s hidden inside a mountain

This is the World’s largest pyramid, and it’s hidden inside a mountain

Although Giza’s Great Pyramid in Egypt is by far the world’s most widely debated pyramid, 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 below.

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

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

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

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).

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.

This view of the pyramid was taken in the early 20th century

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.

Archaeology shock: Experts discover mysterious Mayan palace lost for 1,000 years

Archaeology shock: Experts discover mysterious Mayan palace lost for 1,000 years

Ancient building found 100 miles west of Cancùn estimated to be more than 1,000 years old

Archaeological work carried out by experts “has allowed confirming the existence of a palace to the east of the main square” of the so-called architectural Group C, INAH reported in a statement.

The remains of the building six meters high, 55 meters long and 15 meters wide were identified as a large palace used over two periods of ancient Mayan history dating back more than 1,500 years.

Scholars from INAH have revealed the large palace remained in use most likely during the Late Classic (600-900 AD) and the Terminal Classic (850-1050 AD).

In addition to the ancient palace, archeologists from INAH are also excavating other structure at the central square at Kuluba. The researchers are believed to have identified an altar, the remains of residential buildings, as well as a circular structure believed to have been an oven.

Archaeologists have discovered a large palace likely used by the Mayan elite more than 1,000 years ago in the ancient city of Kuluba, near modern-day Cancun. Pictured, an archaeologist works cleaning the stucco of the Temple

In addition to the structures, archaeologists have also discovered a grave of several individuals at Kuluba. Experts will now work in order to determine their exact age and sex.

“This work is the beginning, we’ve barely begun uncovering one of the most voluminous structures on the site,” archaeologist Alfredo Barrera told Reuters.

Along with the palace(pictured), Mexican experts are exploring four other structures in the area known as ‘Group C’ in Kuluba’s central square, including an altar, remnants of two residential buildings and a round structure believed to be an oven
Archaeology discovery: The team also uncovered remains from a burial site 

Kuluba, which has now become the archeological site of Kuluba, was an important city with powerful ties to other ancient Maya cities of the region such as Ek’Balam and Chichen Itza. It is believed that Kuluba was part of a large network of trade encompassing many other ancient cities in the region.

“From data . . . and the Chichén-like ceramic materials and obsidian [found at Kulubá] . . . we can infer that it became an enclave [under the control] of Chichén Itzá,” Barrera said.

“Throughout the 20th century, Tizimín ceded most of its forest land to agricultural and livestock use. This means that the experts who are now restoring the Mayan buildings to their former glory not only live alongside spider monkeys and other species of flora and fauna but also give priority to the fact that the archaeological zone is distinguished by its natural and cultural balance” revealed INAH in a statement.

Kuluba is located not far away from the famous Caribbean vacation capital of Cancun. The name of the ancient city, Kulubá, is formed by the words “K’ulu”, which refers to a kind of wild dog, and “ha”, water.

To protect Kuluba from the climate and looting, the researchers are considering reforesting parts of the forest surrounding Kuluba. With a denser forest, the site will be better protected from sunlight and wind.

Experts have revealed that the archeological site should be opened to tourists in the medium term.

Archeological work at the site is being funded by the government of Yucatan. The people in charge of the archaeological site of Kuluba are part of a multidisciplinary project.

Possible 16th-Century Spanish Anchors Found Near Mexico

Possible 16th-Century Spanish Anchors Found Near Mexico

The exact location where the anchors were found was when the Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortes was sinking his ships in order to prevent a return to Cuba by opposing the leaders of his army.

Anchor studies have shown that their morphology places the anchors to the 16th century. Their orientation indicates that they follow patterns that could be associated with the location of the fleet of conquistador Hernan Cortes.

Villa Rica is usually rich in tourists and fishermen in the salty seawater.

One of the anchors recovered off the Velacruz coast

The coast of Veracruz, however, was around 500 years ago one of history’s main cultural gatherings, which is now being investigated, with positive results, by underwater archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), who work together with foreign specialists to explore the seabed.

The researchers have found two iron anchors in their new exploratory project, the second season of the Villa Rica Subaquatic Archeology Project

Curiously, the experts have revealed that the unique characteristics of the anchors link them to the 16th century. The objects join the discover of another anchor that was found in 2018.

Laboratory studies have proven that the wood of its stock belongs to a tree of Spain’s Cantabrian coast.

The recently recovered anchors were discovered no more than 300 meters north of the location where experts in 2018 recovered the first anchor. The largest of the anchors is 3.68 meters long and 1.55 meters wide. The second anchor is 2.6 meters long and 1.43 meters wide.

Unlike the anchors recovered in 2018, the recently found objects did not converse their wooden stock.

Nonetheless, the protuberances over the rod are visible where the stock would adjust.

“In both, a pair of bumps running parallel to the arms can be seen in the cane at the height at which the stocks adjusted, a typical feature of the manufacture of anchors in the 16th century,” the researchers revealed in a statement.

“It is not clear if all three anchors belong to the same historical moment, but their alignment to the southwest coincides with the logic of Villa Rica as a port that protects ships from the north and northwest winds,” explained Roberto Junco, head of the Underwater Archeology Branch of INAH.

Despite this uncertainty, for experts, it is of great importance to know they are following an accurate route to locate shipwrecks that are linked to the arrival of Europeans to the American continent.

“The Conquest of Mexico was a seminal event in human history, and these shipwrecks, if we can find them, will be symbols of the cultural collision that led to what is now the West, geopolitical and socially speaking,” says underwater archaeologist Dr. Frederick Hanselmann.

It is important to note that the anchors are well-preserved thanks to the same sediment that had protected them for five centuries. This is why after experts completed measurements and documentations, the anchors were once again covered in the sediment to be protected in situ.

Researchers will now focus on another 15 anomalies that show potential as being anchors.

Stone tables found in Chichen Itza reveal unknown information on the ancient Maya

Stone tables found in Chichen Itza reveal unknown information on the ancient Maya

According to a report in The Smithsonianmag, a team of archaeologists led by José Francisco Osorio León and Francisco Pérez Ruiz of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History has found 1,000-year-old pieces of a limestone table inscribed with hieroglyphs and human figures in the so-called Temple of the Snails at Chichen Itza.

Together, the stones measure about five feet long by four and one-half feet wide. The images include possible prisoners of war tied with ropes. Osorio León said the table was carved in Chichen Itza and moved to the Temple of the Snails from another location

The stones are buried at the Snails Temple in the Chichen Viejo region, which is built-in late-terminal classics (900-1000 AD), Osorio Leon commented.

He commented on this pre-Columbian piece “was reused as a table, that is, it does not correspond to the Temple of Snails, and although it was carved in Chichen Itza, the exact place where it was placed and subsequently taken to is unknown. It is thought that the stone table served as an altar”.

López Calzada carried out the supervision of the general conservation and restoration works of the archaeological zone, in its 2019 season, which has the objective of ensuring the state of conservation of the archaeological monuments, of this important World Cultural Heritage site.

The works are carried out in the area known as Chichen Viejo, which includes monumental buildings from the Terminal Classic and Early Postclassic periods.

The official explained that “they correspond to research and rescue of sectors of Chichén Itzá that included secondary cores adjacent to the central area, including the architectural group commonly known as ‘Chichén Viejo’.

The area where INAH – Yucatán specialists currently work is located 800 meters south of the ceremonial complex of Las Monjas in Chichén Itzá, and it is connected to the main archaeological area through Sacbé 25 and Sacbé 26.

He explained that it covers an area of 150 meters north-south by 125 meters east-west, and on a walled platform there are eight main structures, three platforms, and other housing complexes. The building has six accesses, the main one in the form of a large arch with a vault and rounded walls.

The project is directed by archaeologists José Francisco Osorio León and Francisco Pérez Ruiz, researchers attached to the INAH Yucatan Center.

In addition, archaeologists Abimael Josué Cu Pérez, Alfonso Emmanuel Argueta Estrada, Cesar Antonio Torres Ochoa, Nelda Issa Marengo Camacho, among others, are also participating in this project.

More than 50 workers from San Felipe Nuevo, Pisté, and Xcalacop communities in Tinúm are contributing to return the splendor to Chichen Itza with an investment of three million pesos.

The buildings that are intervened are the “Structure of the Stucco”, the “Temple of the Sacrifices”, the “Palace of the Columns”, and “The House of the Snails”, among others that will receive cleaning and general maintenance.

López Calzada added that between January and February of next year, the 2020 Season of the Chichen Itza Archaeological Project will begin, in which more than 60 workers will be employed.

Boy Found Million-Year-Old Fossil by Tripping Over It

Boy Found Million-Year-Old Fossil by Tripping Over It

For example, while walking through the New Mexican desert, something turns out to be a fossil of Stegomastodon from 1.2 million years ago, you could see some benefits.

Dr. Peter Houde with the Sparks brothers during the Stegomastodon excavation.

Jude Sparks, 9, was doing this last October when he and his parents visited the Orange Mountains.

The brother of Jude, a hunter, was not initially convinced that the finding was awesome.

“Hunter said it was just a big fat rotten cow,” Jude told KVIA TV. “I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it wasn’t usual.”

To him, the discovery looked like “fossilized wood.”

His parents agreed and contacted Peter Houde, a professor at New Mexico State University, who returned with the family to the site the next day. Sure enough, the boy had stumbled over a fossilized tusk.

It’s a big discovery — both literally and metaphorically. The ancient mammals were cousins to the wooly mammoth and modern-day elephant, so the remains are large.

They’re also rare since prehistoric bones typically disintegrate quickly after being exposed to the elements. Houde suspects the Sparks family came across the tusk just after erosion had brought it to the surface.

“This is really very unusual to find,” he told The New York Times.

With Houde’s help, the family reburied the remains and set about fundraising for a formal dig.

It took them months to organize a team and secure a permit — but in May they finally uncovered an entire skull made of fragile “egg-shell thin” pieces.

Jude Sparks

“We’re really, really grateful that they contacted us, because if they had not done that if they had tried to do it themselves, it could have just destroyed the specimen,” Houde, who hopes to display the remains at the university, said. “It really has to be done with great care and know-how.”

Oddly, this isn’t the first accidental Stegomastadon find. In 2014, a hiking bachelor party found a 3-million-year-old skull belonging to the dino in New Mexico’s Butte Lake State Park.

Humans may have hunted the Stegomastodon toward the end of its existence, though it’s likely that its mammoth competitors kicked it off the evolutionary tree.

The creatures remain — a bit smaller than the average African elephant — are easily identified by their broad, upward-curving tusks.

As for Jude, he isn’t really as into fossils as he was when he was “little.”

He’ll take the attention, though.

“I’m not really an expert,” the now-10-year-old told the Times. “But I know a lot about it, I guess.”