History Files


Native Americas

Aztec Ruler's Tomb First Find?

Mathaba News, 6 August 2007

Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar in Mexico City believe they have discovered the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever to be uncovered.

The underground chambers they have detected likely contain the remains of Emperor Ahuizotl (1486-1502).

Ahuizotl (pronounced ah-WEE-zoh-tuhl) reigned over the Aztecs when Christopher Columbus landed in the New World. He was an empire-builder who extended the Aztecs' reach as far as Guatemala, and was the last emperor to complete his rule before the Spanish Conquest.

Digging carefully

Archaeologists reported that they have located what appears to be a six-foot-by-six-foot entrance into the tomb about fifteen feet (4.5m) below ground. The passage is filled with water, rocks and mud, forcing workers to dig delicately while suspended from slings. Pumps work to keep the water level down.

"We are doing it very, very slowly ... because the responsibility is very great and we want to register everything," said Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead government archaeologist on the project. "It's a totally new situation for us, and we don't know exactly what it will be like down there."

The archaeologists are literally digging into the unknown because no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found. Radar indicates the tomb has up to four chambers, and scientists think they will find a constellation of elaborate offerings to the gods on the floor.

All indications so far point to Ahuizotl. The site lies directly below a huge, recently discovered stone monolith carved with a representation of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee), the Aztec god of the earth.

Any artefacts linked to Ahuizotl would be of tremendous pride to Mexico. The country has sought unsuccessfully to recover Aztec artefacts like the feather-adorned "shield of Ahuizotl" and the "Montezuma headdress" from the Ethnology Museum in Vienna, Austria.



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