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Will Aztec emperors’ tombs be discovered this year?

by Yucatan Times

Nearly five centuries after its overthrow, the historical Aztec Empire continues to fascinate.

The epic struggle between the Aztecs and Hernan Cortes ended in 1521 with the fall of the Aztec empire and the destruction of their capital city Tenochtitlan.  Mexico City was constructed above the ruins.  That’s why when they dig down they find Aztec ruins.  For example, in the Mexico City subway system there is a small Aztec pyramid. They just built around it so it’s now part of a subway station.

The Templo Mayor was the Aztecs’ principal temple, and archaeologists have unearthed much of interest there.  It is located right downtown by the Zocalo Plaza, and its museum contains much of interest about the Aztecs.

I recall as a boy reading a book about the Aztecs, and years later I’ve been able to visit the Templo Mayor in Mexico City several times.

(I invite the reader to peruse my articles on Mexico City and the Zocalo, which include photographs of the Templo Mayor.  Click here and here.)

Who knows what else may lie below Mexico City?  One possibility is that archaeologists may be on the verge of discovering the actual tomb of one or several of the Aztec emperors.  And it could actually occur in calendar year 2016.

Archaeologists work inside a tunnel found under the ruins of the Feathered Serpent Temple (Photo: dailymail.co.uk)

Archaeologists work inside a tunnel found under the ruins of the Feathered Serpent Temple (Photo: dailymail.co.uk)

On November 30th, 2015, Mexico’s INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, or National Institute of Anthropology and History) reported a discovery at the Templo Mayor complex.  The archaeological team, led by Leonardo Lopez Lujan of the Projecto Templo Mayor, had found a tunnel, 27 feet long, which goes into the middle of a circular platform.  It is believed that deceased Aztec rulers had been cremated in the center of that platform.

Up until now, no tomb of an Aztec ruler has been found. The Aztecs cremated the bodies of their rulers, but their final resting places have not been found.

The mouth of this tunnel was closed by a stone slab weighing 3 tons.  In 2013, this slab was raised up, revealing a space with offerings including golden ornaments, bones of eagles and human babies, skulls of children which may have been decapitated, a hand and bones belonging to two feet, and stone knives of the kind utilized in human sacrifice.

Experts speculate that Aztec tombs below Mexico City may contain remains of Aztec emperors. (PHOTO: kennethgarret.photoshelter.com)

Experts speculate that Aztec tombs below Mexico City may contain remains of Aztec emperors. (PHOTO: kennethgarret.photoshelter.com)

But the chamber with the sacrifices wasn’t the end of it, as there was a continuing passage (5 feet high and a foot and a half wide), albeit filled with soil and rocks.  After these were dug out, the passage ends at two entrances to other chambers which are sealed with masonry.  Could these be entrances to the tomb or tombs of emperors?

The archaeologists filled up the passage again due to other work being done at the site. But in 2016, new excavation is being planned.  According to Lopez Lujan, this new work “includes re-excavating the passageway and finding out what lies behind the two sealed doorways. The hypothesis is that there will be two small chambers with urns holding the ashes of Mexica (Aztec) rulers, but we could be wrong.”

The archaeologist is being careful not to be overconfident. After all, they won’t know until they uncover it.  As Dr. Michael E. Smith (anthropology professor at Arizona State University) describes Lopez Lujan, “Leonardo knows the archaeology and ethno-history better than anybody, and he is not one to grandstand or make fantastic claims to garner publicity. Thus I would think his prediction is reasonable.”

Quoth Lopez Lujan, “What we are speculating is that behind these sealed-up entrances there could be two small chambers with the incinerated remains of some rulers of Tenochtitlan, like Moctezuma I and his successors, Axayacatl and Tizoc, given the relative dating of the surrounding constructions.”

Moctezuma I, also known as Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, reigned from 1440 – 1469, and he is not to be confused with Moctezuma II Xocoyotzin, who reigned when Cortes arrived in 1519.

Axayacatl, grandson of Moctezuma I, reigned from 1469 to 1481, and under his reign the famous Aztec Solar Stone was carved.  Axayacatl’s brother Tizoc reigned from 1481 to 1486.

Lopez Lujan guesses that the tombs may contain the cremains (cremated remains) of those three emperors based on the apparent age of constructions around the chambers.

So, will an Aztec imperial tomb finally be discovered this year?

By Allan Wall for TYT


Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info.

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