Mexican archaeologists have found a tunnel-like passage in the Great Temple of Tenochtitlán that leads to two sealed chambers, rousing hopes that the tombs of great Aztec leaders are about to be uncovered.
The tunnel, measuring just 1.5 metres high and 45 centimetres wide, runs for eight metres before leading to a circular ceremonial platform and two sealed doors. According to local legend, the Aztecs burned their ruler’s remains on a circular platform called Cuauhxicalco.
“Once we freed the passage from earth and stone, we knew it led directly into the heart of the Cuauhxicalco. At the end appear two old entrances sealed up with masonry,” lead archaeologist López Luján said.
“From what the sources say, the Cuauhxicalco was a structure of a funerary character, so we can speculate that behind these walls there might be two small rooms that contain the incinerated remains of several leaders.”
Given the dating of the temple, Luján suspects the remains might be those of Moctezuma I and his successors, Axáyacatl and Tízoc, the three earliest Aztec leaders who ruled during the 14th and 15th centuries.
Archaeologists have long thought the Aztecs cremated their leaders within the temple, but decades of excavations have failed to unearth even one ruler’s tomb.
“It’s not surprising that these cremains have not yet been found or identified,” according to University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie. “Archaeologists don’t know quite what they’re looking for.”
The discovery of any Aztec ruler’s remains would be highly significant. Exactly what the Aztecs did with leaders after their deaths is one of the most enduring mysteries of the civilisation.
[Image: Gildardo Sanchez/Flickr]