Researchers conducting excavations in Mexico City found a series of boxes containing Aztec treasures. Inside they discovered a cache of Aztec ritual offerings, including child remains, precious stones, and several animals including a flamingo, an eagle, a Mexican wolf and a jaguar. Could it be that they’ve found the legendary lost tomb of the Aztec King Ahuitzotl?
Do the Ritual Offerings Point to the Tomb of Lost Aztec King?
Located in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City , the Templo Mayor was the chief temple of the indigenous Mexica, known today as the Aztecs. Buried at the center of a circular ceremonial platform associated with the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli, archaeologists have uncovered an ancient treasure trove of Aztec ritual offerings, including 180 coral branches, 165 red starfish and a sacrificed jaguar dressed like an Aztec warrior, clutching a sacrificed eagle.
Aztec priests boxed up and buried these items over 520 years ago. Experts believe that this indicates that this was once a very sacred site. A strange bulge found at the bottom of one of the boxes of treasure has lead researchers to conclude that they have finally identified the lost royal tomb of emperor Ahuitzotl, an Aztec king who ruled from 1486 AD to 1502 AD.
The treasure trove was unearthed near the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. ( javarman / Adobe Stock)
A Great Discovery Will Soon Be Made
A report in the Daily Mail explained that the team of archaeologists began excavating the site in 2020 but they were forced to stop during the 2021 lockdowns. Clutching a sacrificed eagle, the sacrificed jaguar was dressed as a warrior with an atlati spear thrower, copper bells tied around its ankles and a carved wooden disk on its back dedicated to the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli.
At the time they suspected that all of these items, as well as the 165 starfish and 180 coral branches, were buried over the Aztec king’s cremated remains. Analysis of a mysterious bulge in the middle of one of the boxes suggests the researchers were right. Lead archaeologist Dr. Leonardo Lopez Lujan has announced that “a great discovery” will soon be made.
An example of one of the offering boxes, number 126, which could lead the archaeologists to pinpoint the cremated ashes of the lost Aztec king. (Mirsa Islas / INAH)
Spanish Records Seemingly Confirm Suspicions About Aztec Kings
As the 8th ruler of the Aztecs between 1486 AD and 1502 AD, Ahuitzotl deployed guerrilla warfare tactics on tribes in present-day Guatemala and along the Gulf of Mexico, sparking what is known as the Aztec Golden Age. According to Britannica, the Aztec king ruled the empire until 1503 AD, at which time he tried to escape the great flood that devastated Tenochtitlán in 1503, smashing his head on a stone lintel.
Templo Mayor was rebuilt on six occasions by different Aztec emperors and when Ahuitzotl died there were two temples dedicated to Tlaloc, the god of earth fertility and rain, and Huitzilopochtli, the solar god of war. When Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1521 AD, the Templo Mayor was destroyed and the stones were reused to build the Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven.
While the Spanish systematically destroyed Aztec architecture, they liked to keep records. It was thus no surprise that they noted the burial rites of three brothers who served as Aztec kings between 1469 AD to 1502 AD. According to Reuters, the three rulers’ cremated remains were interred with luxury items and the hearts of sacrificed slaves “in or near the circular platform” at Templo Major.
The body of a young man offered to Tezcatlipoca Huitzilopochtli found at the possible burial site of the Aztec king from the Spanish Codex by Bernardino de Sahagún. ( Public domain )
Discovery of Aztec King’s Tomb Would Be “Enormously Important”
Joyce Marcus at the University of Michigan is a specialist in ancient Mexican cultures. Marcus explained that the recently unearthed offerings “illuminate the Aztec worldview.” She clarified that the artifacts speak of the Aztec “ritual economy” and demonstrate the “obvious links between imperial expansion, warfare, military prowess and the ruler’s role.” These elaborate rituals and ceremonies, according to Marcus, were conducted to “sanctify conquests, allowing tributes to flow into the ruler’s seat.”
Archaeologists have so far located over 200 boxes containing ritual offerings at this site. However, Dr. Lopez Lujan stressed that “no Aztec royal tomb has ever been found” and that the discovery of the Aztec King Ahuitzotl’s tomb would be “enormously important.”
Adding to the team’s suspicions that they are digging into a royal burial site was the 2019 discovery of a child sacrifice , this time a the remains of a 9-year-old boy buried with a set of flint knives decorated with precious stones and mother of pearl. He was wearing a jade bead necklace and priests had attached hawk bone wings to his shoulders to resemble Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec solar deity and war god.
The researchers suspect both the sacrificed Jaguar and the 9-year-old boy would have had their hearts ripped out in the ruler’s burial ceremony. Furthermore, the skulls of another dozen sacrificed children aged between one to six years old were excavated from a nearby pit. While these children were sacrificed several decades earlier than the 9-year-old, they were all symbolically linked to the god Huitzilopochtli.
Archaeologist at work during excavations at the Templo Mayor in Mexico City. (Melitón Tapia / INAH)
The Hunt for Ashes Is On
The archaeologists also recovered hundreds of semi-precious green stones and a pink roseate spoonbill, a bird from the flamingo family. Copal incense bars, a miniature wooden spear thrower and shield were found with 21 flint knives fashioned to resemble Aztec warriors. Furthermore, they recovered an intricate mother of pearl god disk similar to the one found with the sacrificed jaguar.
The researchers concluded that an aquatic theme binds all of these ritual items and offerings together. This could mean that the sacrificed jaguar perhaps represents “the watery underworld where the Aztecs believed the sun sank each night,” or possibly “the journey of the king’s soul after death.” Dr. Lopez Lujan says the goal now is now clear: to recover the burial urn of Ahuitzotl, which would contain the cremated ashes of the lost Aztec king .
Top image: The discovery of a cache of Aztec ritual offerings, including the remains of a Mexican wolf dressed as a warrior (seen here), has lead experts to believe they may have found the tomb of an Aztec king. Source: Mirsa Islas / INAH
By Ashley Cowie