Could a pre-Hispanic stone structure that lies on the bottom of a pond in México state be a depiction of the creation of the Earth?
One archaeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) believes so.
Iris del Rocío Hernández Bautista is leading a team that is carrying out a series of new excavations at the site known as Nahualac in the foothills of the Itzaccíhuatl volcano.
In a statement, Hernández explained that according to some Mesoamerican myths about the creation of the world, the half-crocodile, half-fish marine monster known as Cipactli was floating on primeval waters when the heavens and earth were created from its body.
The positioning of the 1,000-year-old stone Tetzacualco — shrine or sanctuary — in the pond and the optical effect produced by its reflection in the water, which makes it seem like it is emerging from the pond’s depths, could be an attempt to emulate that idea, she said.
“Those visual effects, in addition to the characteristics of the elements that make up the site and the relationship they have with each other, lead to the conclusion that Nahualac could represent a miniature world that evokes primeval waters and the beginning of mythical time and space,” she said.
The 11.5 by 9.8-meter rectangular stone temple was built by stacking smaller stones together but did not use any kind of cement, the archaeologist explained.
Hernández also suggested that water was brought from nearby springs to ensure that the reflection on the surface of the pond was maintained even in times of low rainfall.
At a second area of the Nahualac site, about 150 meters from the pond, there is a wide valley where spring water emerges from the ground. Decorative ceramic pieces associated with the rain God Tláloc have previously been found there.
“The intention that water surround architectural elements [designed for] specific rituals seems to have been an important part of Mesoamerican thought, we see it in Tenochtitlan . . . in Teotihuacán,” Hernández said.
Stone artifacts recently discovered at the site, including several obsidian blades, are currently undergoing analysis in order to understand more about their use and origin.
Hernández said that previous archaeological studies of the site as well as the current project indicate that Nahualac was a ritual space based on the worship of Tláloc and the feminine entities of water and land.
Juan Bautista Pomar, a 16th-century writer of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent, claimed that the site was in use until that century and that children were sometimes sacrificed there.