Hidden Aztec temple unearthed in the middle of Mexico City

Archaeologists have discovered a temple, ball court and sacrificial victims

Julia Buckley
Thursday 15 June 2017 21:24 BST
The temple has taken seven years to excavate so far
The temple has taken seven years to excavate so far (Youtube/NAH TV)

Archaeology fans, gird yourselves for a new discovery: a hidden Aztec temple has been unearthed in the middle of Mexico City.

It’s not just the structure that has been found, either – archaeologists believe that human remains discovered onsite belong to sacrificial victims.

The site is on a side street in the centre of Mexico City, near the Templo Mayor – an Aztec temple which was demolished by the Spaniards, who built a church on top of it. The remains of the temple were excavated in the 1980s and the archaeological finds housed in a museum.

The ‘new’ temple, archaeologists have discovered, was dedicated to Ehécatl, the god of ‘good’ winds that brought rain. It is 36m long, with two circular buildings off the main temple, connected via a walkway. There is a 9m ritual ball court nearby. The excavations – unveiled to the press last week – have taken seven years so far, while the wider project, excavating the remains of the Aztec ceremonial site, which spans seven blocks of the historical city centre, has been going on for 25 years.

Tenichtitlan, the ancient city, was the Aztec capital; the Templo Mayor is thought to have been built on the spot they believed was the centre of the universe. But it was razed in 1521 by the Spaniards, who built their colonial city on top of the remains.

This temple is thought to have been build during the reign of emperor Ahuizotl, who was on the throne from 1486 to 1502. Despite the Spaniards’ destruction, it is in relatively decent condition, with original white stucco still visible in parts. Although dedicated to Ehécatl, archaeologists have also found portrayals of other Aztec gods nearby, including Huitzilopochtli, the war god, and Tláloc, another rain god.

Archaeologists made a grisly discovery, however, on the ball court: the piled-up neck vertebrae of about 30 individuals – from infants to juveniles – thought to be the remains of sacrificial victims, made as offerings for the games.

There’s no word on when the site will open to the public, but with 40,000 archaeological sites in Mexico, there are plenty of other options.

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