Watery Aztec Treasures Discovered In Mexico

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Watery Aztec Treasures Discovered In Mexico

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More than 2500 wooden objects associated with the Aztec empire – many of which were submerged in water for up to 500 years – have been recovered from the Templo Mayor, once the religious and cultural heart of the Aztec empire.

The Tempo Mayor – which literally translates as the Main Temple – was the single most important sacred temple complex for the Aztec culture and was established in their capital Tenochtitlán around 1325, shortly after the Aztecs rose to prominence. The Aztec capital was a sophisticated urban centre that covered a vast area connected by bridges and canals as well as a road network. Today, Tenochtitlán’s remains lay in, around and beneath modern Mexico City.

The wooden objects are believed to be ritual offerings to the gods and include earrings, masks, ornaments, earmuffs, sceptres, darts, dart throwers, pectorals, jars, headdresses, a carved representation of a flower and another of a skeletal bone.

Credit: INAH

The objects were all found at the foot of the great temple, in an area where priests and religious leaders deposited offerings to the gods. Archaeologists suggest that these objects were intended to either consecrate the building or were part of ceremonies asking the Gods to intervene in human
affairs.

Aztec custom frequently appeased their gods with human sacrifices and other public rituals that took place in the temple and its precinct.

The Tempo Mayor is one of two temples located in Tenochtitlan, one dedicated to the god of rain and fertility, Tlaloc – literally ‘the one who makes sprout’ – and Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and sun.

Although the recovered wooden objects are in a remarkable state of preservation considering their age, the must also be handled carefully because they are fragile.

Scientists believe unique atmospheric conditions – high, constant humidity, little oxygen, or light as well as constant temperature – allowed the objects to survive despite their organic origin.

The objects are being held at The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico, where they are subject to the most meticulous preservation

Credit: INAH

“These types of objects normally do not survive to this day, among other things, because this was an island surrounded by a lake,” said the INAH in a statement. The objects represent one of the richest archaeological finds in all Mesoamerica, the statement said.

“First, because of its state of conservation. The conditions caused these objects to survive well over 500 years; another is the collection’s richness and diversity.

“And, on a symbolic level, it is exceptional, because we are in the capital of the Mexica empire. The materials we have here are spectacular because we are in the heart of an empire. That explains, in part, why we have found not only wood, but rubber, flowers, crocodiles, starfish… It is a unique [discovery].”

Credit: INAH

An INAH representative said that when the archaeologists extracted the objects from their watery discovery site, “they come out as if they were pork rinds in green sauce’ indicating just how fragile they are.

“Currently, restorers are applying a very innovative conservation technique. Thanks to it, the wood does not melt in our hands. They are extremely delicate objects.”

The artifacts were found complete or almost complete, and many even preserve traces of their original colours including blue, red, black, and white, all of which were colours typical to the Aztec culture.

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