As part of the 80th anniversary of explorations in the Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone, a highly significant archaeological discovery has been revealed: an offering box intended to consecrate an architectural expansion of the Great Basement, dating back over seven centuries.

This finding is part of the conservation efforts of the Tlatelolco Project, which the federal Ministry of Culture, through the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), has been carrying out. These efforts intensified following the collapse of the building’s roof, caused by a severe hailstorm on April 27, 2022.

Thanks to funds secured by institutional insurance, a new roof has been installed, and significant progress has been made in the exploration of the Great Basement. This structure is an essential component in the ritual life of the ancient Tlatelolca, according to Salvador Guilliem Arroyo, director of the project.

The discovery site
The discovery site. Credit: Mauricio Marat / INAH

Created in 1987 by archaeologist Eduardo Matos Moctezuma, the Tlatelolco Project has allowed for comparisons of the similarities and differences between Tlatelolco and its sister city, Tenochtitlan, through their archaeological remains. In this context, the Great Basement, whose excavation began in 1991, is considered equivalent to the House of the Eagles of Tenochtitlan, serving as a place of worship for the Tlatelolca military elite and possibly dedicated to the black Tezcatlipoca, “the smoking obsidian mirror lord”.

During excavations in the area in front of the central altar of the Great Basement, archaeologists Francisco Javier Laue Padilla and Paola Silva Álvarez discovered Offering 29. Following the direction of a surface crack, they found large basalt, tezontle, and pyroclastic rocks, under which there were two levels of andesite slabs.

These slabs, covered with stucco and black mural paint, formed a 70 by 45 centimeters cist, which was placed between 1375 and 1418 to consecrate the second stage of the building under the mandate of Cuacuahpitzáhuac.

At a depth of 2.80 meters, inside the offering box, 59 obsidian blades and seven knives were found, along with three blocks of copal, which testify to a ritual likely of self-sacrifice performed by Tlatelolca priests before placing the objects in the cist.

59 blades and 7 obsidian knives were observed, in addition to copal blocks
59 blades and 7 obsidian knives were observed, in addition to copal blocks. Credit: Mauricio Marat / INAH

The box could contain more materials, whose presence will be confirmed as the archaeological record progresses, including detailed drawings of the different levels of the context, photogrammetric surveys to obtain three-dimensional images of the finding, and soil sampling to identify associated organic matter.

Each discovered element holds significant symbolic weight that will be thoroughly analyzed, as it could reveal connections with deities such as Tezcatlipoca, one of the most complex deities of the Mesoamerican pantheon.

Furthermore, the Great Basement remains an inexhaustible source of discoveries. On its western end, archaeologists like Jessica González Raya have recorded Offering 28, related to extensive burning of ceramic griddles. In this case, a 30-centimeter diameter griddle covered canine teeth and a projectile point.

A few meters from there, Miguel Ángel Marín Hernández and Germán Olivares Terrez are excavating burials in a recently discovered common grave. Since its discovery in 2007, the Tlatelolco Project has recovered approximately 470 human burials, mostly victims of the 1833 cholera epidemic, including cases of pregnant women.

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