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Native Americas

Aztec Ruler's Tomb First Find?

Mathaba News, 6 August 2007. Updated 30 May 2017

Mexican archaeologists using ground-penetrating radar in Mexico City in 2006 believed they had discovered the first tomb of an Aztec ruler ever to be uncovered. The underground chambers they detected were thought likely to 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 had located what appeared to be an entrance which was 1.8 metres square (six feet), allowing passage into the tomb about 4.5m (fifteen feet) below ground. The passage was filled with water, rocks, and mud, forcing workers to dig delicately while suspended from slings. Pumps worked to keep down the water level.

Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead government archaeologist on the project, stated that they were working extremely slowly, because the levels of responsibility for the site's preservation were very great, and they wanted to register all their findings. The situation was completely new for them, and they didn't know exactly what it would be like down there so great care was needed.

The archaeologists were literally digging into the unknown because no Aztec royal tomb had ever been found. Radar indicated that the tomb had up to four chambers, and scientists thought they would find on the floor a constellation of elaborate offerings to the gods.

All indications up to the middle of 2007 pointed to Ahuizotl being the tomb's resident. The site lay directly below a huge, recently discovered stone monolith carved with a representation of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee), the Aztec god of the earth (see sidebar photo).

Any artefacts linked to Ahuizotl would be of tremendous pride to Mexico. The country has sought unsuccessfully to recover Aztec artefacts such as the feather-adorned 'shield of Ahuizotl' and the 'Montezuma headdress' from Austria's Ethnology Museum in Vienna. Excavation work on the site continued into 2016 and beyond.

 

 

     
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