Earthquake damage in Mexico reveals hidden prehispanic temple

The destructive earthquake that struck central Mexico in September last year caused hundreds of deaths and numerous material damages. But the strong tremor has also had an unexpected consequence for archaeologists. While they were carrying out repairs to the Teopanzolco pyramid, in the state of Morelos, they found remains of a temple that they believe could have been dedicated to Tlaloc, the rain god of the ancient Mexica. The investigation continues, but the finding implies that there would have been a structure from an earlier archaeological stage.

“In spite of what the earthquake meant, it is necessary to be thankful that this important structure appeared due to this natural phenomenon that changes the dating of the archaeological site”, explained Isabel Campos Goenaga, director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). in Morelos. The earthquake caused damage to the main structure Teopanzoloco, a pyramid 16 meters high, dated between 1200-1521 AD belonging to the Tlahuica culture, which developed in the area and had a relationship with the Aztecs or Mexica.

The greatest damage to the pyramid was at the top, where two temples were already found, one dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the greatest deity of the Mexica, and another to Tlaloc. “The floor of both shrines sank and bent, which also endangered their stability,” explained archaeologist Barbara Koniecza, who began the settlement and restoration work and discovered the stucco-covered walls of what would be the temple, a stool and remains of a pilaster that supported a roof, elements of a substructure possibly of the Middle Postclassic period (1150-1200 AD)

“This finding changes the chronology of Teopanzolco, since first the basement was discovered and then, in the image of that type of construction, the Templo Mayor was built in Tenochtitlan,” added Koniecza, who is in charge of the archaeological works. According to the expert, “it is not that the Mexicas have contributed this architectural style to this region, on the contrary, the Tlahuica constructions inspired them to build the Templo Mayor”.

Experts estimate that the newly discovered structure would have been six meters long and four meters wide. It would also have an access stairway to the west, where the access stairway of the pyramid is as it is currently seen. The highlight is that the chronological history of the pyramid takes a leap back in time more than 200 years.

They had no indication until now that there was an interior substructure. “What we found could correspond to Teopanzolco’s oldest temple, but more studies are needed to see if it is associated with an early phase of the Middle Postclassic period (1150-1200 AD),” added Georgia Bravo, a member of the team, who also found remains of Tlahuica pottery.




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