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ARCHAEOLOGY NEWS

Gigantic Aztec Temple Unearthed in Mexico City

It was built in tribute to the wind god

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Mexico Temple

This huge temple was lurking beneath the site of a hotel. (INAH)
SMITHSONIAN.COM

When people walk down the streets of Mexico City, they might do so in search of a bite to eat or a glimpse at some of its coolest modern architecture. But they may not realize they’re standing on top of thousands of years of history. And every once in a while, that history surfaces in an amazing archaeological find.

 That’s what happened near the city’s Zocalo plaza, reports Reuters, where a huge Aztec temple and ball court—and a pile of human neck bones—were hiding just beneath the surface.

The incredible find was hidden beneath a side street where a hotel once stood, Reuters reports. Years of excavations finally revealed a temple that archaeologists say is more than 500 years old. INAH, the Mexican institute of anthropology and history, says in a Spanish-language press release that it was likely in use at least since 1481 until 1519. The temple—built to look like a coiled snake—was in honor of Ehécatl, a wind god worshiped by the Aztecs as the creator who breathed life into humankind.

That worship had a grisly side: Near a ball court found within the temple complex, archaeologists discovered 32 severed neck vertebrae. The body parts, officials believe, came from people who were decapitated as part of a sacrificial ritual in the temple. The INAH release writes that the ages of the bodies ranged from infants to juveniles.

The institute notes that the building would have stopped being used for worship once the Spaniards arrived in what is now Mexico City. Tenochtitlan, as it was known then, was the most powerful Aztec city-state. But when Spaniards moved in and conquered, they simply built a new city—and the hundreds of colonial-era buildings for which the interior of Mexico City is known—on top.

Though many of those ruins have gone missing, early colonists recorded accounts of the splendors that once filled the area. Bernal Díaz del Castillo helped invade the Aztec city in the 1520s. Forty years later, he recalled his amazement upon entering Tenochtitlan. “These great towns and [temples] and buildings rising from the water, all made of stone, seemed like an enchanted vision…” he wrote. “Indeed, some of our soldiers asked whether it was not all a dream.”

But Castillo’s observations were anything but a dream. They have since been borne out by archaeological excavations that have revealed magnificent temples and tens of thousands of artifacts. The new find, an INAH official notes, gives further credence to those early chronicles and offers a new look at a culture once literally paved over by a conquering force.

 It took a full seven years to dig out the temple, the INAH says in its release. So what will become of it now? The Associated Press reports that the hotel that owns the property will build a new building above the ruins—but that the public will still be able to visit the snake-like site.

It’s certainly not the first time a seemingly mundane part of Mexico City has revealed an archaeological wonder. Last year, for example, another, even older temple to Ehécatl was discovered beneath a supermarket. Mexico’s history of civilization and colonization is complicated to say the least, but it’s never far from daily life. And it will take much more than wind to blow away the relics that sleep beneath its city streets.

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New Pyramid Discovered in Egypt

Earlier this week the interior structure of pyramid was uncovered at the Dahshur Necropolis, home to some of Egypt’s earliest pyramids

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Entrance into the newly discovered pyramid (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)
SMITHSONIAN.COM

After thousands of years, researchers are still making incredible finds in Egypt (case in point, the giant statue unearthed in Cairo last month). Now, researchers have made another big find: earlier this week the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities announced that a team of their archaeologists discovered the remains of pyramid dating back to the 13th Dynasty, which ruled about 3,700 years ago reports the Associated Press. The only problem is that an inscription indicates that the pyramid may have been built for a ruler that already has a pyramid next door.

The Egypt Independent reports that the remains were uncovered at the Dahshur Necropolis, an area about 25 miles south of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile. That area is home to what is considered to be some of the earliest pyramids including Sneferu’s Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid.

While the pyramid-shaped upper section is gone, the substructure still remains. “The uncovered remains of the pyramid represents a part of its inner structure, which is composed of a corridor leading to the inner side of the pyramid and a hall, which leads to a southern ramp and a room to the western end,” Adel Okasha, the director general of the Dahshur Necropolis says in a statement, reports Owen Jarus at LiveScience.

Though the writing on the slab has not been translated by the Antiquities Ministry, Jarus shared images of the hieroglyphics with Egyptologists. He reports that two have said the writing is a religious text often used inside pyramids, and that the text appears to include the name of the pharaoh Ameny Qemau, the fifth king of Dynasty XIII, who briefly ruled around 1790 B.C.

 That raises some questions, however, since Ameny Qemau’s pyramid was discovered in Dahshur in 1957, Aidan Dodson, a research fellow at the University of Bristol who has written about artifacts from that earlier pyramid, tells Jarus. He suggests one possibility for the discrepancy is that Qemau may have hacked out the name of a predecessor king and inserted his own name. That practice was common in the ancient world when a new ruler wanted to bury the memory of an enemy or unpopular ruler.

The AP reports that the Ministry of Antiquities plans to continue excavations and hope to find more evidence of which ruler or high-ranking official the pyramid belonged to.

image: https://thumbs-media.smithsonianmag.com/filer/a7/19/a719d53b-f753-4b0c-86c2-8fc17de572c0/inscription.jpg__800x450_q85_crop_upscale.jpgThe inscribed stone found in the pyramid
The inscribed stone found in the pyramid (Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities)

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/new-pyramid-discovered-egypt-180962813/#WVR8kMhcytPtYmYu.99
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