A large cache of Aztec ritual offerings has been found under it Downtown Mexico City, off the steps of what would have been the empire’s holiest shrine, provides new insight into pre-Hispanic religious ritual and political propaganda.

Sealed in stone chests five centuries ago at the foot of the temple, the contents of one chest were found in the exact center of what was circular The ceremonial stage broke records for the number of marine offerings from both the Pacific Ocean and off the Gulf Coast in Mexico, including over 165 bright red starfish and over 180 whole branches of coral.

Archaeologists believe that Aztec priests carefully placed these offerings in a box inside a raised platform for a ceremony likely to be attended by thousands of angry spectators amidst the pounding of thunder.

“Pure imperial propaganda,” said Leonardo López Lujan, a senior archaeologist at the Proyecto Templo Mayor at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) who is overseeing the excavation.

In the same chest, archaeologists previously found a sacrificial tiger dressed as a warrior associated with the Aztec patron Huitzilopochtli, god of war and the sun, before COVID-19 pandemic I was forced to pause in the excavations for more than two years.

Previously unreported details include the discovery of an eagle sacrificed last month in the clutches of a jaguar, along with miniature wooden spears and a reed shield found next to the west-facing cats, which had brass bells strapped around their ankles.

The half-excavated rectangular box, which dates to the reign of Emperor Ahuitzotl, who ruled from 1486 to 1502, now shows a vague bulge in the middle below the jaguar’s skeleton, indicating that there was something solid underneath.

“Everything that’s under Jaguar is something very important,” Lopez told Logan. “We expect an amazing discovery.”

López Lujan, who is heading excavations at what is today the Templo Mayor, believes the chest could contain an urn containing the cremated remains of Ahuitzotl, the emperor whose military campaigns expanded the empire into modern-day Guatemala while linking Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. .

But he says at least another year of drilling is needed to settle the issue.

An archaeologist excavating ritual offerings from the Aztecs
An archaeologist excavates an Aztec ritual in Mexico City, November 15, 2022 [Henry Romero/Reuters]

Aztec view of the world

To date, no Aztec royal tomb has been found despite more than 40 years of digging around the Templo Mayor, where more than 200 offering boxes have been found.

The temple rose to a 15-story building before it was demolished in the years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico in 1521, as the ruins have served to conceal many of the more recent finds.

Besides the central display containing the jaguar, two additional boxes were recently located next to it, and both boxes are scheduled to open in the next few weeks.

Possibly the most ferocious of the animals dressed as warriors, they were decked out in jade, turquoise, and gold.

Water offerings covering the jaguar may represent a watery underworld where the Aztecs believed the sun would go down every night, or perhaps part of a king’s journey after death.

Joyce Marcus, an archaeologist specializing in ancient Mexico at the University of Michigan, says the recently discovered offerings illuminate Aztec The “worldview, ritual economy, and clear links between imperial expansion, warfare, military prowess and the role of the ruler” in ceremonies that sanctified conquests and allowed tribute to flow into the capital.

“Each presentation box adds another piece to the puzzle,” she said.

Finally, the skulls of dozens of sacrificed children between one and six years of age were discovered in a nearby pit, dating from decades earlier but also associated with the god Huitzilopochtli.

The information gleaned from the excavations goes beyond accounts of the incomplete colonial era that are also colored by European conquerors’ justifications for the conquest, according to Diana Moreras, an Aztec researcher at the University of British Columbia.

“We really do get to know the Aztecs on their own terms,” ​​she said, “because we’re actually looking at what they did, not what the Spanish thought of them.”

An archaeologist excavates an Aztec sacrificial ritual in Mexico City
This Aztec offering is believed to be associated with the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli [Henry Romero/Reuters]

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