Archaeologist at work on the Mexico City site Archaeologist at work on the Mexico City site. inah

Tzompantli is latest find at Templo Mayor

Excavation reveals a stone platform on which skulls were displayed

The Aztec culture continues to be rediscovered at the active archaeological site that is the Historic Centre of Mexico City.
The most recent discovery unveiled what is believed to be the stone platform of the huey tzompantli, a wooden rack or palisade where the skulls of war and sacrificial victims were displayed.

The capital’s center is full of archaeological treasures, having been the political, social and cultural center of the Mexica people, rulers of the Aztec empire.

The discovery was made during the first stage of excavations, conducted between April and June 2014, by specialists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) at 24 Guatemala Street, where the platform was buried only two meters deep.

The experts estimate that the rectangular platform, almost half a meter high, 34 meters long and 12 wide, was built between 1486 and 1502. So far, 35 skulls have been found at the site but experts expect to find more as the excavation progresses.

“Due to its location, this is indeed the huey tzompantli, or Great Tzompantli, of Tenochtitlán [the Mexica capital],” said Eduardo Matos, founder of the Templo Mayor project, an archaeological excavation program established in 1978.

This particular tzompantli is described by several chroniclers of the time, such as friar Bernardino de Sahagún and conquistadors Hernán Cortés and Andrés de Tapia, and depicted in several 16th-century codices and pictographs. For Matos, the discovery is ratification of those historical accounts.

He explained that tzompantli were used to represent the power and might of the Mexica people, as the spectacle of rows upon rows of skulls was frightful and imposing to see.

Of the Templo Mayor project, Matos said that “work has been constant in the last 37 years. Many buildings have already been located, either partial or complete. It is said that the great ceremonial plaza of Tenochtitlán consisted of 78 buildings, of which more than 45 are now accounted for.”

The second stage of excavations at the Guatemala Street site is expected to start shortly. The specialists expect to be able to display the huey tzompantli through an archaeological window once excavations are over, but they are unable to say when that might be.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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