Category Archives: MEXICO

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

The remains of the great pyramid of Teopanzolco have long offered visitors to the southern Mexican site unique insights into the structure’s inner workings while simultaneously conjuring visions of the intricate temples that once arose from its series of bases and platforms.

Today, remnants of twin temples—to the north, a blue one dedicated to the Aztec rain god Tláloc, and to the south, a red one dedicated to the Aztec sun god Huitzilopochtli—still top the pyramid’s central platform, joined by parallel staircases.

Although archaeologists have intermittently excavated the Teopanzolco site since 1921, it took a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake to unveil one of the pyramid’s oldest secrets: an ancient shrine buried about six-and-a-half feet below Tláloc’s main temple.

According to BBC News, scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered the temple while scanning the pyramid for structural issues.

The earthquake, which struck central Mexico on September 19, 2017, caused “considerable rearrangement of the core of [the pyramid’s] structure,” INAH archaeologist Bárbara Konieczna said in a statement.

For local news outlet El Sol de Cuernavaca, Susana Paredes reports that some of the most serious damage occurred in the upper part of the pyramid, where the twin temples are located; the floors of both structures had sunk and bent, leaving them dangerously destabilized.

The discovery was made at the Teopanzolco pyramid in Cuernavaca

To begin recovery efforts, archaeologists created wells in the temple dedicated to Tláloc and a corridor separating the two temples.

During this work, the team unearthed a previously unknown structure, which featured a similar architectural style—double facade walls covered in elongated stones and stucco-encased slabs—to that of the existing Tláloc temple.

In the statement, Konieczna notes that the temple would have measured about 20 feet by 13 feet and was probably dedicated to Tláloc, just like the one located above it. It’s possible that a matching temple dedicated to Huitzilopochtli lies on the opposite side of the newly located one, buried by later civilizations’ architectural projects.

The humidity of the Morelos region had damaged the temple’s stucco walls, according to a press release, but archaeologists were able to save some of the remaining fragments.

Below the shrine’s stuccoed floors, they found a base of tezontle, a reddish volcanic rock widely used in Mexican construction, and a thin layer of charcoal. Within the structure, archaeologists also discovered shards of ceramic and an incense burner.

Paredes of El Sol de Cuernavaca notes that the temple likely dates to about 1150 to 1200 C.E. Comparatively, the main structure of the pyramid dates to between 1200 and 1521, indicating that later populations built over the older structures.

The Teopanzolco site originated with the Tlahuica civilization, which founded the city of Cuauhnahuac (today is known as Cuernavaca) around 1200, as G. William Hood chronicles for Viva Cuernavaca. During the 15th century, the Tlahuica people were conquered by the Aztecs, who, in turn, took over the construction of the Teopanzolco pyramids.

Following the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the project was abandoned, leaving the site untouched until its 1910 rediscovery by Emiliano Zapata’s revolutionary forces.

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers

According to a research published at PLOS ONE on the 5th February 2020 by Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Heidelberg, the new skeleton discovered in the submerged caves of Tulum sheds light on the earliest settlers in Mexico.

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers
Underwater exploration of Chan Hol Cave, near Tulum, Mexico. Credit: Eugenio Acevez.

Humans have been living in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula since at least the Late Pleistocene (126,000-11,700 years ago).

We also discovered much of the earliest Mexican settlers from nine well-preserved human skeletons found in the submerged caves and sinkholes near Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Here, Stinnesbeck and colleagues describe a new, 30 percent-complete skeleton, ‘Chan Hol 3’, found in the Chan Hol underwater cave within the Tulum cave system.

The authors used a non-damaging dating method and took craniometric measurements, then compared her skull to 452 skulls from across North, Central, and South America as well as other skulls found in the Tulum caves.

The analysis showed Chan Hol 3 was likely a woman, approximately 30 years old at her time of death, and lived at least 9,900 years ago.

Her skull falls into a mesocephalic pattern (neither especially broad or narrow, with broad cheekbones and a flat forehead), like the three other skulls from the Tulum caves used for comparison; all Tulum cave skulls also had tooth caries, potentially indicating a higher-sugar diet.

This contrasts with most of the other known American crania in a similar age range, which tend to be long and narrow, and show worn teeth (suggesting hard foods in their diet) without cavities.

Though limited by the relative lack of archeological evidence for early settlers across the Americas, the authors suggest that these cranial patterns suggest the presence of at least two morphologically different human groups living separately in Mexico during this shift from the Pleistocene to the Holocene (our current epoch).

The authors add: “The Tulúm skeletons indicate that either more than one group of people reached the American continent first, or that there was enough time for a small group of early settlers who lived isolated on the Yucatán peninsula to develop a different skull morphology.

The early settlement history of America thus seems to be more complex and, moreover, to have occurred at an earlier time than previously assumed.”

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.