A trove of sacrificial ruins including a young boy and a sacred jaguar dressed as a warrior near the open ruins of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City’s ‘historic center’ are like bread crumbs to scientists that may lead them to the elusive remains of the powerful Aztec emperor Ahuitzotl who died in 1502.
Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) are working to sift through the 500-year-old remains of jaguar bones and those of a male child dressed to resemble the Aztec war god and solar deity. The artifacts were recently found within a large stone box thought to be the final resting place of Ahuitzotl, one of the Aztecs most powerful and last rulers to lead Tenochtitlan before the 1519 arrival of Spanish explorers that unevenly conquered what is now Mexico.
Coral and shells were also recently rediscovered within the box whose remnants are only 10 percent unearthed.
Scientists says the offerings were deposited by Aztec priests over five centuries ago in a circular, ritual platform once located in front of the temple where historical accounts say was the final resting place of Aztec kings, reports Reuters.
The finding of Ahuitzotl, or any Aztec king, would be historic because despite decades of digging scientists have never unearthed Aztec royalty.
“We have enormous expectations right now,” lead archeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan told Reuters. “As we go deeper we think we’ll continue finding very rich objects.”
Already a wide array of artifacts has been found near the top of the box, including a spear thrower and a carved wooden disk placed on the feline’s back that was the emblem of the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli, the war and sun god.
Scientists suspect the cremated remains of Ahuitzotl are also within the stone container because in 2006 a massive monolith of the Aztec earth goddess was found nearby with an inscription corresponding to the year of the ruler’s 1502 death.
Elizabeth Boone, a specialist in ancient Mexico at Tulane University, notes that Ahuitzotl’s death would have been marked with lavish adornments and that the jaguar may represent the king as a fearless warrior.
“You could have Ahuitzotl in that box,” she said.
A roseate spoonbill, a pink bird from the flamingo family, has also been found in the offering. It was associated with warriors and rulers, and thought to represent their spirits in their descent into the underworld.
Several decades after the conquest, chroniclers detailed the burial rites of three Aztec kings, all brothers who ruled from 1469 to 1502.
According to these accounts, the rulers’ cremated remains were deposited with luxurious offerings and the hearts of sacrificed slaves in or near the circular platform.
The sacrificed boy is thought to have been around nine years old at the time of his death and was found with a wooden war god disk, a jade bead necklace and wings made from hawk bones attached to his shoulders.
Like the jaguar, the boy likely had his heart torn out as part of a ritual sacrifice, though further tests will need to be conducted to confirm the theory, reports Reuters.