650-Year-Old Temple to Aztec Wind God Unearthed Under Supermarket in Mexico

(video en español más abajo)

A temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god, Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl, has been unearthed during the demolition of a supermarket in Mexico City. The circular temple is about 650 years old and is the second of its kind to be found in the area.

Seeker reports that excavations began at the site in 2014, when the top of the structure, 20 burials, and pottery were found. Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava of Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) said that they had expected to find the pottery and human remains, the temple, however, was a pleasant surprise.

The foundations of the unearthed temple to in Mexico City.

The foundations of the unearthed temple to in Mexico City. ( Mauricio Marat/INAH )

More of the platform was exposed in March 2016, with much of its white stucco still intact. A small box of offerings was also found at that time. Inside the box, the archaeologists recovered the remains of “an infant with no signs of trauma, bird bones, obsidian, maguey cactus spines and ceramic figurines of monkeys and duck bills.” [Via The Guardian ] An INAH press releasesays that this set of offerings enabled the archaeologists to make the link between the temple and the Mexica (Aztec) god Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl.

Some of the ceramic pieces found in the offering.

Some of the ceramic pieces found in the offering. ( Héctor Montaño, INAH )

Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl was a wind god and creator god for the Aztecs. He showed mankind how to reproduce by bringing a girl named Mayahuel from the underworld and mating with her. Aztec legends say that the girl died when guardians from the underworld broke a branch where she had mated with the deity. A magical plant then grew from her body which produced a love potion. As for Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl, he was said to have ruled the second of the five ages, which ended due to storms and turned men into monkeys.

Physical anthropologist Nancy Miramón Valdez said the archaeologists found more human remains at the site of Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl’s temple in October 2016. One of the more interesting finds was a skull of an adult male with a ring which they believed belonged to him. Eight complete human skeletons, two adults (a male and female) and six infants, were discovered around the temple. Other incomplete human remains were also found.

One of the skeletons found at the site.

One of the skeletons found at the site. ( INAH)

Mexico News Daily says that more than 70% of the temple has been preserved. The structure measures 1.2 meters (3.94 ft.) high and 11 meters (36.09 ft.) in diameter. It was buried 3 meters (9.84 ft.) below the surface. The temple is rounded on three sides and has a rectangular entrance coming from the east – like the other temple previously found dedicated to Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl.

The INAH plans to preserve the temple while keeping it on public display. They say they’ll do this by creating an “archaeological window.”  As the director of the Tlatelolco archaeological zone, Edwina Villegas, explained to Mexico News Daily: “In order to protect the pyramid, a wall will be built around it… a ramp and a railing will also be set, allowing the public to see at least half the temple located along Flores Magón avenue.” The INAH expects that you’ll be able to see the results of this work by next December.

Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma told Mexico News Daily that the recent discovery is important for increasing knowledge on the pre-Hispanic city of Tlatelolco, of which the ceremonial center’s extent is still unknown. So far 67 structures have been rediscovered, however experts estimate there are about 40 more still awaiting discovery under nearby streets and buildings.

Previously uncovered structures in the Tlatelolco archeological zone.

Previously uncovered structures in the Tlatelolco archeological zone. (Thelmadatter/ CC BY SA 3.0 )

Top Image: Part of the unearthed wall at the temple of Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl in Tlatelolco, Mexico. ( Notimex) Insert: Representation of Ehécatl-Quetzalcóatl from the Codex Borgia. (Public Domain )

By Alicia McDermott

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