The discovery of a large stockpile of ceremonial gifts from the Aztecs beneath Mexico City’s downtown area, off the steps of what would have been the empire’s holiest shrine, sheds new light on pre-Hispanic religious practises and political rhetoric.
The contents of one box discovered in the exact centre of what was once a circular ceremonial stage, sealed in stone boxes five centuries ago at the foot of the temple, have broken records for the quantity of sea offerings from both the Pacific Ocean and off Mexico’s gulf coast, including more than 165 once-bright-red starfish and upwards of 180 full corral branches.
Archaeologists believe Aztec priests carefully layered these offerings in the box within the elevated platform for a ceremony likely attended by thousands of rapt spectators amid the thunderclap of drums.
“Pure imperial propaganda,” Leonardo Lopez Lujan, a lead archaeologist at the Proyecto Templo Mayor of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which is overseeing the dig, said of the likely spectacle
Its reportd that, In the same box, archaeologists previously found a sacrificed jaguar dressed like a warrior associated with the Aztec patron Huitzilopochtli, the war and sun god, before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause on excavations for more than two years.
Previously unreported details include last month’s discovery of a sacrificed eagle held in the clutches of the jaguar, along with miniature wooden spears and a reed shield found next to the west-facing feline, which had copper bells tied around its ankles.
The half-excavated rectangular box, dating to the reign of emperor Ahuitzotl, who ruled from 1486 to 1502, now shows a mysterious bulge in the middle under the jaguar’s skeleton, indicating something solid below.
“Whatever is underneath the jaguar is something enormously important,” said Lopez Lujan. “We’re expecting a great discovery.”
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