The remains of a major Aztec temple and a ceremonial ball court have been discovered in downtown Mexico City, shedding new light on the sacred spaces of the metropolis that Spanish conquerors overran five centuries ago, archaeologists said on Wednesday.
The discoveries were made on a nondescript side street just behind the city's colonial-era Roman Catholic cathedral off the main Zocalo plaza.
The underground excavations reveal a section of what was the foundation of a massive, circular-shaped temple dedicated to the Aztec wind god Ehecatl and a smaller part of a ritual ball court, confirming accounts of the first Spanish chroniclers to visit the Aztec imperial capital, Tenochtitlan.
Archaeologists also detailed a grisly offering of 32 severed male neck vertebrae discovered in a pile just off the court.
"The vertebrae, or necks, surely came from victims who were sacrificed or decapitated," said archaeologist Raul Barrera.
Some of the original white stucco remains visible on parts of the temple, built during the 1486-1502 reign of Aztec Emperor Ahuizotl, predecessor of Moctezuma, who conquistador Hernan Cortes toppled during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
The building would have stood out because of its round shape among the several dozen other square temples that dominated the Aztecs' most sacred ceremonial space before the 1521 conquest.