Archaeologists in Mexico have unearthed an altar built by native Mexica people and complete with a pot containing human remains that was part of a ritual to mark their fading world after the Spanish conquest.
The discovery took place near what is now Garibaldi Plaza in the Mexican capital Mexico City. But between 1521 and 1610 AD, which is when the altar and pot are believed to have been made for an ancient ritual, the city was called Tenochtitlan and it was home to the Mexica people.
A team of experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) confirmed that the location of the discovery was once the home of a native Mexica family.
The Mexican Ministry of culture said in a statement: “In honour of this fading world, the inhabitants of an ancient home performed a ritual in the 16th century, possibly between 1521 and 1610 AD, to testify that this was the end of a cycle of their lives and of their civilisation.
“Between songs and the smell of copal, the residents arranged in the patio an offering with multiple elements, among which a pot with bone remains (human ashes) and 13 polychrome incense burners of almost one metre in length, used to burn the resin.”
Copal is a tree resin used by pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people as an incense used in rituals and ceremonies.
For the coordinator of these archaeological finds, Mara Abigail Becerra Amezcua, this discovery is significant within the context of the “500 years of indigenous resistance” that was proclaimed in the country this year, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Spanish conquest.
The year 1521 marked the Fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, a decisive vi
ctory for the Spanish which marked the downfall of the Aztecs.
Mara Becerra said that this discovery is significant because this offering, located at a depth of just over four metres, was covered with several layers of well-consolidated adobe to keep it from prying eyes, which she said was indicative of the mettle of those Mexica who remained in Tenochtitlan after the taking of the city by the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes.
The foundations of the Mexica housing complex were found in the middle part of a 500-square-metre, modern-day property. For Mara Becerra, the “most striking discovery within this complex is the offering under the floor of the interior patio”, a context that confirms the “sacred character” of the location, which after being a significant spiritual space for the native Mexica people and home to a temple, went on to become the Santa Maria La Redonda neighbourhood and home to a Christian church.