Archaeologists Discover a 17th Century Tunnel Adorned With Mysterious Aztec Carvings

A team of archaeologists from Mexico has discovered an intriguing tunnel that dates back to the 17th century adorned with 11 Aztec carvings made of stone.

The researchers believe that the images were created before the arrival of the Spanish conquerors, but were incorporated into the tunnel walls when it was built centuries later. That means they were probably created by the Aztecs, an empire famous for its beautiful temples, its hieroglyphic writing system, and its human sacrifice practices.

Long ago, in the fifteenth century, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma I ordered the construction of a system of dikes in what is now Mexico City in an attempt to control the severe flooding of nearby lakes. However, when the infamous conqueror Hernán Cortés arrived along with the rest of the conquerors, the system was destroyed, before being rebuilt in the 17th century. The levee system is now known as the Albarradón de Ecatepec.

The head of a bird of prey drawn on the rock Aztec carvings
The head of a bird of prey drawn on the rock. Credit: Edith Camacho, INAH

The stone used in the initial construction was probably reused when the dikes were rebuilt, which explains the Aztec carvings symbols engraved on the sides of the tunnel. It is believed that they were made by the locals of the nearby cities of Chiconautla and Ecatepec before the Spanish invasion. The images include both petroglyphs (carved in rock) and stucco relief panels and represent various things, including a war or chimalli shield, the head of a bird of prey and a flint point. Some icons are still being carefully examined to assess what they could represent, says INAH, the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico .

The main arch of the tunnel also includes an engraving of a temple dedicated to Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, earthly fertility, and water. He was seen by the Aztecs as a provider of life and sustenance. Hidden inside the 8-meter tunnel are also several artifacts made of glass, porcelain and a type of pottery called majolica, along with a statue of a seated person whose head and feet seem to be missing.

The remains of statues Aztec carvings
The remains of statues. Credit: Edith Camacho, INAH
The representation of a temple dedicated to the Aztec god of rain
The representation of a temple dedicated to the Aztec god of rain. Credit: Edith Camacho, INAH

The discovery is part of a long-term government project to excavate the Albarradón de Ecatepec, which has operated since 2004. The newly discovered tunnel is 500 meters from the beginning of the Albarradón in an area called Patio de Diligencias. The INAH now plans to replace the glyphs with replicas and host the originals at the Casa de Morelos Community Center.

Source: IFL Science

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