Mysterious Golden Spheres Found in Tunnel Beneath Mexican Pyramid

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Courtesy DMC, INAH/M. MARAT

The massive pre-Columbian site of Teotihuacan just outside of Mexico City still has many mysteries. Reaching its height around 200 AD after the completion of two enormous pyramids, archaeologists still know very little about who built this place or why. As mysterious as the pyramids is the fact that they were constructed over enormous underground tunnels. Adding to this mystery is the recent discovery of hundreds of golden spheres lying about the floor of one of these tunnels. Read the story below to learn more:

Hundreds of mysterious spheres lie beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an ancient six-level step pyramid just 30 miles from Mexico City.

The enigmatic spheres were found during an archaeological dig using a camera-equipped robot at one of the most important buildings in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan.

“They look like yellow spheres, but we do not know their meaning. It’s an unprecedented discovery,” said Jorge Zavala, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute.

The Mesoamerican ruins of Teotihuacan, a World Heritage Site, represent one of the largest urban centers of the ancient world. Thought to have been established around 100 B.C., the pyramid-filled city had more than 100,000 inhabitants at its peak, but was abandoned for mysterious reasons around 700 A.D. — long before the Aztecs arrived in the 1300s.

The excavation at the temple focused on a 330-foot-long tunnel which runs under the structure. The conduit was discovered in 2003 when heavy rain uncovered a hole a few feet from the pyramid.

Exploring the tunnel, which was deliberately filled with debris and ruins by the Teotihuacan people, required several years of preliminary work and planning.

Read the full article here: http://news.discovery.com/history/archaeology/mysterious-spheres-emerge-from-ancient-temple-130429.htm

Aztec Florentine Codex Now Online

florentine-codexThe Florentine Codex contains a wealth of information about the Aztecs written by the Aztecs themselves and translated by the Spanish priest Sahagun. Having been completed in 1577 the book has now finally arrived on the Internet. Find out more below:

Historia general de las cosas de nueva España (General history of the things of New Spain) is an encyclopedic work about the people and culture of central Mexico compiled by Fray Bernardino de Sahagún (1499–1590), a Franciscan missionary who arrived in Mexico in 1529, eight years after completion of the Spanish conquest by Hernan Cortés. Commonly called the Florentine Codex, the manuscript came into the possession of the Medici no later than 1588 and is now in the Medicea Laurenziana Library in Florence. Sahagún began conducting research into indigenous cultures in the 1540s, using a methodology that scholars consider to be a precursor to modern anthropological field technique. His motives were primarily religious: he believed that to convert the natives to Christianity and eradicate their devotion to false gods, it was necessary to understand those gods and the hold they had on the Aztec people. Sahagún was repelled by much of native culture, but he also came to admire many qualities of the Aztecs. As he wrote in the prologue to Book I of his work, the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations that presume to be quite politic.” Sahagún gained the assistance of two important indigenous groups: the elders of a number of towns in central Mexico (principales) and Nahua students and former students at the College of Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco, where Sahagún worked for much of his time in Mexico. The principales answered questionnaires prepared by Sahagún about their culture and religion, and their responses were recorded in their own pictorial form of writing. The Nahua students interpreted the images and expanded the answers, phonetically transcribing Nahuatl using Latin letters. Sahagún then reviewed the Nahuatl text and added his own Spanish translation. The whole process took almost 30 years and finally was completed in 1575–77, when Sahagún had a new and complete copy of the manuscript prepared.

Read the full account here: http://www.wdl.org/en/item/10096/#regions=latin-america-and-the-caribbean

Forty New Rock Art Sites in Mexico

Many of the rock art designs in this report, especially the ‘dancing human’ designs,  are not just similar but identical to rock art motifs from around the world. Physicist and plasma researcher Anthony Peratt has argued that the reason for these similarities is the fact that all of these cultures were witnessing the same event, a high energy aurora, taking place in the sky produced by a super solar flare. Peratt has shown that many of these designs are identical to designs created by high energy plasma events which can be replicated in the laboratory. Peratt has documented and mapped thousands of examples of this rock art and has shown they always reflect the precise angle of view the artist would have had of this event based on his/her particular viewing location. Peratt argues that this proves the sun had a massive outburst in the past. Multiple Native American legends seem to record an event when the sun had such an enormous outburst. Other physicists have shown such a solar outburst likely led to the extinction of the megafauna at the end of the last Ice Age. Read the story below of these new finds in Mexico:

Example of the rock-art found at 40 sites in northeastern Guanajuato, Mexico. Image: Carlos Viramontes / INAH

Rock-art has been discovered and recorded in forty sites in northeastern Guanajuato, Mexico, as part of an ongoing project carried out by researchers from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

The majority of the images were created by hunter-gatherers who occupied the area during the 1-5 centuries AD, but religious iconography and inscriptions were also discovered dating to the colonial era, as well as the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Images made by hunter gatherers and believed to be around two thousand years old. (Note the sun design to the left of the uppermost ‘dancing man’ design.) Image: Carlos Viramontes / INAH

The findings were announced by lead archaeologist Carlos Viramontes after four seasons of research in the area of Queretaro and Guanajuato semi-desert.

“We have found more than three thousand pictorial motifs in 40 locations, distributed in the municipalities of Tierra Blanca, San Luis de la Paz, San Diego Union, Xichú and Victoria, in Guanajuato.

Altogether, since the late eighties over 70 rock-art sites have been recorded, with those falling into the two thousand year old hunter-gatherer category being preliminarily classified into two groups:

  • public – involving large numbers of people creating iconography as part of a ritual in easy to access sites located near the foothills and in the valleys.
  • private – where it is believed that a small select group attended ceremonies in hard to access ravines and canyons.

Public and private ritual spaces

The sites known as Manitas, in the community of Tierra Blanca and Cerro Redondo represent good examples of the two classifications explains Viramontes. Tierra Blanca feels like a private ritual space, located near a 3,400 m high mountain peak in a difficult to access ravine. Depicted here are human figures, plants and animals – some of them fantastical creatures – as well as some geometric lines along with red and black painted hands.

On the other hand, Cerro Redondo appears to be a place where public rituals have taken place, involving large numbers of people. It is located on an easily accessible hillock in the middle of a plain.

Characteristic paint colours favoured by the hunter gatherers were yellow, red and black and used to paint human figures adorned with headdresses, skirts and cloaks, sometimes depicted carrying as yet unidentified objects and sometimes carrying bows and arrows in scenes of hunting and war.

“There is a great diversity of animals represented – mainly deer, but also dogs and insects resembling centipedes and spiders and many birds ” explained Viramontes.

The archaeologist theorises that for these hunter gatherers, the act of creating images on rock surfaces went beyond just recording daily life events and rituals; he contends that the rock face itself was a point of contact between the material and the spiritual worlds.

Religious iconography

Apart from the two thousand year old rock-art recorded during the project, other types discovered relate to the colonial era and comprise crosses, shrines, altars and dated inscriptions. These were drawn with white pigmentation, typical of the Otomi people who settled in Guanajuato and Queretaro semi-desert, from the sixteenth century.

“As for the nineteenth century images, these are crudely produced by local ranchers using a red pigment and consist of crosses and altars along with human figures wearing hats and the baggy trousers of that period.

“And the twentieth century, we only found paintings of cups and crosses, probably made during the Cristero War in the 1920s. The local community were able to explain that during this time religious rites were performed under cover of the rock-shelters ” said Viramontes, who is currently producing a detailed report on all forty of the sites.

“We will continue working on location, research and protection of this rich heritage of northeastern Guanajuato rock-art,” concluded the researcher.

Source: INAH press release

Mexican archaeologists look back on a banner year

Mexico City –  A roughly 1,000-year-old Maya sarcophagus, vestiges of an extinct tribe, the oldest tomb in Mesoamerica, dinosaur fossils and human remains dating from the early 8th century are some of the most noteworthy archaeological finds made in Mexico during 2010.
“We haven’t had such a fruitful period since the (19)80s, and we haven’t undertaken so many investigations across the length and breadth of the country,” Julio Castrejon, the head of communications for Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, told Efe.
The capital and the state of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Tlaxcala, Coahuila, Zacatecas and Mexico are the places where the institute, known by the acronym INAH, uncovered 10 of the finds that have allowed scientists to learn more about the Maya and Mexica cultures, as well as about the fauna that existed many thousands of years ago in the region.

Read more: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/entertainment/2010/12/28/mexican-archaeologists-look-banner-year/

Ancient Tomb Found in Mexico Reveals Mass Child Sacrifice

The skeletons of two dozen children killed in an ancient mass sacrifice have been found in a tomb at a construction site in Mexico. The find reveals new details about the ancient Toltec civilization and adds to an ongoing debate over ritualistic killing in historic Mesoamerica.

Construction crews unearthed the burial chamber this spring near the town of Tula, the ancient Toltec capital, 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of Mexico City (see Mexico map).

The chamber contained 24 skeletons of children believed to have been sacrificed between A.D. 950 and 1150, according to Luis Gamboa, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

All but one of the children were between 5 to 15 years of age, and they were likely killed as an offering to the Toltec rain god Tlaloc, Gamboa said.

The Toltec, a pre-Aztec civilization that thrived from the 10th to 12th centuries, had not been previously thought to have sacrificed children.

But the ritualistic placement of the skeletons, cut marks on bones, and the presence of a figurine of Tlaloc led Gamboa to conclude the children had been sacrificed to bring rain.

“To try and explain why there are 24 bodies grouped in the same place, well, the only way is to think that there was a human sacrifice,” Gamboa told the Reuters news agency.

“You can see evidence of incisions, which make us think they possibly used sharp-edged instruments to decapitate them.”

Read the full story here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2007/06/070612-tomb-child.html

Mexico Aztec god carving may be emperor’s headstone

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Archeologists say a giant, ornate carving of an Aztec god recently unveiled in downtown Mexico City could be a massive headstone in honor of one of the civilization’s last rulers.

Scientists say the 12.4 ton stone cutting, which is covered with a vast, heavily detailed full-body engraving of earth god Tlaltecuhtli, is one of the most important Aztec finds ever.

The 11-foot long monolith was first made public in October. It is broken into several pieces but otherwise in excellent condition, archeologists said.

They have spent weeks scraping dirt and debris from the piece and now say it may be the headstone of Ahuizotl, the eighth Aztec ruler, whose successor Moctezuma II governed at the start of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The headstone is decorated with the carved image of a deity with a giant male head ringed by masses of curly hair and a sharp extended tongue representing a stream of blood.

Skulls and crossed bones surround the body, as well as a rabbit and several dots thought to be a time stamp dating the sculpture to 1502.
Read the entire article here: http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN1624761620061117

Aztec Math Decoded, Reveals Woes of Ancient Tax Time

Brian Handwerk
for National Geographic News

April 3, 2008

Today’s tax codes are complicated, but the ancient Aztecs likely shared your pain. To measure tracts of taxable land, Aztec mathematicians had to develop their own specialized arithmetic, which has only now been decoded.

By reading Aztec records from the city-state of Tepetlaoztoc, a pair of scientists recently figured out the complicated equations and fractions that officials once used to determine the size of land on which tributes were paid.

Two ancient codices, written from A.D. 1540 to 1544, survive from Tepetlaoztoc. They record each household and its number of members, the amount of land owned, and soil types such as stony, sandy, or “yellow earth.”

“The ancient texts were extremely detailed and well organized, because landowners often had to pay tribute according to the value of their holdings,” said co-author Maria del Carmen Jorge y Jorge at the National Autonomous University in Mexico City, Mexico.

The Aztecs recorded only the total area of each parcel and the length of the four sides of its perimeter, Jorge y Jorge explained.

Officials calculated the size of each parcel using a series of five algorithms—including one also employed by the ancient Sumerians—she added.

Read the full story here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080403-aztec-math.html

Ancient Seeds Sow Debate Over Sunflower-Farming Origins

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News

April 28, 2008

Sunflowers were grown as a domesticated crop in Mexico more than 2,000 years ago, according to a new study. The new findings run counter to a theory that sunflower farming began in what is now the U.S. East and then trickled south into Mexico.

Plant remains discovered in a dry cave suggest that farmers in Mexico were cultivating sunflower strains with large seeds by around 300 B.C.

A 2001 study by the same team had found evidence of Mexican sunflower domestication as early as 2600 B.C., but that finding was controversial.

A Smithsonian Institution expert on early agriculture has argued that the remains described by the team in 2001 had been incorrectly identified as sunflowers.

Eastern U.S. Origins

Sunflowers were a cultivated food crop in what is now the eastern United States 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, most experts agree.

But did sunflower farming spread south from eastern North America to Mexico and beyond? Or did ancient Mexicans develop sunflower farming on their own?

The latest evidence supports an independent origin for Mexican sunflower farming, said study leader David Lentz of the University of Cincinnati.

Read the full story here:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080428-sunflowers-mexico.html

Maya Suspension Bridge

James O’Kon is using modern technology and forensic engineering techniques to uncover the mysteries of a vanished Mayan civilization. It began with a pile of rocks in the middle of the Usumacinta River deep in the rain forest between Mexico and Guatemala-the site of an ancient Mayan kingdom,

Approaching the Mayan ruins by dugout canoe, O’Kon, CE ’61, immediately realized the significance of the rock formation.

“That’s a bridge pier!” he declared.

That was in February 1989, O’Kon’s first visit to the Mayan ceremonial center Yaxchilan (pronounced YashSHE- Ian), which flourished during the classic Mayan period between 500 and 700 A.D. Archeologists had been studying the site for more than 110 years, and the mound of rocks had been dismissed as a minor mystery, possibly explained as a once-dry part of the city engulfed by a shifting river.

A former chairman of the forensic council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, O’Kon turned to modern technology to help prove a bridge existed, a technique he has used Professionally. O’Kon is president of

O’Kon and Co., an Atlanta engineering firm that has conducted such forensic engineering investigations as the deadly walkway collapse at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Mo., in the 1980s.

He compiled field information collected at the Mayan site and used computers to integrate archeological studies, aerial photos and maps to develop a three-dimensional model of the site and determine the centerline, discover the location of the bridge abutment and hypothetical construction of the bridge.

O’Kon made a startling discovery: The Mayans built the longest bridge span in the ancient world.

The pre-Columbian bridge was a 600-foot, hemp-rope suspension structure with two piers and three spans built in the seventh century, O’Kon said. Connecting the Yaxchilan ceremonial center in Mexico with its agricultural domain in what is now Guatemala, the bridge had a middle span of 203-feet-the longest span in the world for almost 700 years. In 1377, a bridge with a longer span was built in Europe, O’Kon said.

Link to the “Island City”

The Mayan city was strategically located on high ground. An omega-shaped bend in the river circles the city on three sides, and its only land approach is cut off by steep mountains. Heavy rains made the Usumacinta River virtually impassable from June until January.

“Six months of the year, there is almost 170 to 200 inches of rainfall, and the river is 40 feet above its banks,” O’Kon said. During flood stage, Yaxchilan became “an island city,” he said.

A bridge was essential for the inhabitants of the densely populated city to have year-round access to their domain, their agricultural fields and for commerce, O’Kon said.

The rock pile–12 feet high and 35 feet in diameterwas part of a masonry structure, O’Kon said. Aerial pho tos taken in 1992 revealed the remains of a second support pier on the opposite side of the river, which was almost completely submerged.

Both piers were constructed with an interior of castin- place concrete and an exterior of stone masonry, O’Kon said. “They formed a circle and filled the inside with cast-in-place concrete forming pillars, just like they did their temples and pyramids.”

Identification of the bridge abutment that led to the city’s grand entrance was the “clincher” necessary to reconstruct the complete ceremonial function of the bridge, O’Kon said. A platform situated in an ancient plaza area and located on the centerline of the bridge was a “classic bridge-approach structure,” he said. A stairway leading to the top of the platform and covered in hieroglyphics was also discovered. These stairs were the ceremonial gateway to the city. Carved stone devices were also found, which O’Kon believes were guide- ways for the rope-cable suspension bridge.

“I plugged all of that into the computer,” O’Kon said. “I digitized the maps and put in all the information. Everything lined up-the pillars, the abutments and the ceremonial platform.”

Artist David Morgan, who had been to the Yaxchilan site, drew an illustration of the bridge based on the computer renderings.

Read the full story here:http://gtalumni.org/news/ttopics/win97/bridge.html

Mexico finds bones suggesting Toltec child sacrifice

TULA, Mexico (Reuters) – The grisly find of the buried bones of 24 pre-Hispanic Mexican children may be the first evidence that the ancient Toltec civilization sacrificed children, an archeologist studying the remains said on Monday.

The bones, dating from 950 AD to 1150 AD and dug up at the Toltecs’ former capital Tula, north of present day Mexico City, indicated the children had been decapitated in a group.

The way the children, aged between 5 and 15, were placed in the grave, and the fact they were buried with a figurine of Tlaloc, the God of rain, also pointed to a group sacrifice, archeologist Luis Gamboa said.

“To try and explain why there are 24 bodies grouped in the same place, well, the only way is to think that there was a human sacrifice,” he said.

“You can see evidence of incisions which make us think they possibly used sharp-edged instruments to decapitate them.”

Read the whole story here:http://www.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUSN1636567520070417

Ancient pyramid found in central Mexico City

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Archeologists have discovered the ruins of an 800-year-old Aztec pyramid in the heart of the Mexican capital that could show the ancient city is at least a century older than previously thought.

Mexican archeologists found the ruins, which are about 36 feet (11 metres) high, in the central Tlatelolco area, once a major religious and political centre for the Aztec elite.

Since the discovery of another pyramid at the site 15 years ago, historians have thought Tlatelolco was founded by the Aztecs in 1325, the same year as the twin city of Tenochtitlan nearby, the capital of the Aztec empire, which the Spanish razed in 1521 to found Mexico City, conquering the Aztecs.

The pyramid, found last month as part of an investigation begun in August, could have been built in 1100 or 1200, signalling the Aztecs began to develop their civilization in the mountains of central Mexico earlier than believed.

Read the entire story here:
http://uk.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUKN2742810220071228?pageNumber=2&virtualBrandChannel=0&sp=true

Carlos Museum

The Carlos Museum’s collection of art of the ancient Americas is substantial, consisting of more than 1,900 pieces: over 1,300 from the William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau collection and nearly 500 from the Laurence C. and Cora W. Witten II Collection. The Museum is fortunate in the breadth and depth of the collection as a whole. All three principal cultural centers of the Americas are represented: Mesoamerica, Central America, and the Andes. Most of the important art-producing cultures –from the West Mexico to the Maya and Aztec, from Honduras to Panama, from the Chavín to the Inca– can be appreciated during a visit to the permanent collection galleries. The Carlos Museum’s collections are unusually strong in ancient Costa Rica, featuring over 600 works from all periods.