Archeologists dig for secrets in Mexico tunnel

Archeologists are unearthing a 2,000-year-old tunnel outside bustling modern day Mexico City searching for clues to one of the region's most influential former civilizations.

Heavy rains at the site of Teotihuacan, some 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the capital, accidentally provided the first sign of the tunnel's existence in 2003, when the water made a tiny hole in the ground.

Six years later, a team financed by Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) started digging at the site, which is one of the most visited in Mexico.

Teotihuacan arose as a new religious center around the time of Christ and became possibly the most influential city in pre-Hispanic North America at the time, with a population of 200,000 at its peak.

It is thought to have been abandoned in the seventh century due to economic, social and political problems.

Only around five percent of Teotihuacan has been excavated so far despite more than 100 years of exploration of the former city, which stretches over some 9.7 square miles (25 square kilometers).

Archeologists believe the tunnel will lead to three chambers, which may contain the remains of the leaders of the civilization and help explain their beliefs.

No monarch's tomb has ever been found at the site, which was already deserted when the Aztecs arrived in the area in the 1300s.

But the search for the tombs is not the only focus of investigations.

"It's not something we're obsessed with. We keep working and we're going to try to understand the tunnel on its own and the implications it has for Mesoamerican thought and religion," said archeologist Sergio Gomez.

Last August, digging down some 12 meters (yards), archeologists discovered the tunnel's opening in front of the Temple of Quetzacoatl, or the Plumed Serpent.

"It was very gratifying to be able to find the tunnel's entrance because that shows that the hypotheses were correct," Gomez said.

"We know that Teotihuacan was built as a replica of how they saw the cosmos, the universe. We imagine the tunnel to be a recreation of the underworld."

Some 30 archeologists, biologists and architects work daily under a small tent protecting the tunnel's opening, to the south of the imposing Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

As some sieve through piles of stones and earth over wheelbarrows to pick out artifacts retrieved underground, archeologists descend three ladders down a hole several meters wide and 12 meters deep.

They believe that a deliberate effort was made to pile up stones and even pieces of a destroyed temple to block the tunnel, sometime between 200 and 300 AD.

Precious pieces are believed to have been thrown on to the pile as an offering by the elite.

The team has already removed some 300 metric tons of material, including 60,000 tiny fragments of materials such as jade, bone and ceramics.

Most were ornaments used by the elite, as well as beads and shells from both coasts of Mexico, Gomez said.

A small, remote-controlled robot - the first to be used to explore Mexico's ruins - took a camera inside a small opening before researchers finally entered the tunnel last November.

But they have advanced only seven meters through the tunnel which they believe, thanks to the help of radar technology, to be 120 meters long.

In the hot, damp underground chamber, small labels hang from the curved, rocky roof to show each meter excavated so far.

Archeologists say they can see tool marks in the ceiling which date from the time the tunnel was excavated in the rock.

Wearing mask and helmets as they chip away with small tools, they expect to reach the end of the tunnel in several years' time.

"It's very, very delicate and meticulous work. We have to record every type of change," said researcher Jorge Zavala.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
News
news
New Articles
i100... with this review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam