Archaeologists in Mexico City unearth 500 year-old skeletons and Aztec sacred tree trunk.
MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (MEXICO'S NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND HISTORY, INAH HANDOUT) -Mexican archaeologists have found about 1,700 bones including ten skulls as well as a sacred Aztec tree trunk at a ruined temple in the throbbing heart of Mexico City.
The 500 year-old remains were uncovered last month at the Aztec empire's main Templo Mayor, near Zocalo square, which was used for worship and human sacrifice. They were discovered during works to expand the Templo Mayor museum.
Further analysis is needed to determine the causes of death for the burials but holes found in some of the skulls may indicate human sacrifice. The full remains of a woman with a newborn in her arms were among the discovery.
Archaeologist Raul Barrera explained the importance of the discovery.
"This burial is unique because an individual was buried but his skeleton was accompanied by that of others. These bones could've been extracted from another location and brought here as an offering on behalf of this individual," Barrera said.
It is the first unique discovery since 1978 when electricity workers stumbled upon an eight-tonne carving of an Aztec goddess at the same site.
Archaeologists also found an altar, fragments of rooms and various ceremonial objects buried five metres (aprox. 17 feet) underground next to the skeletons as well as a sacred tree trunk surrounded by a circular red volcanic rock structure.
"In general we can say it's about a sacred tree, a cosmic tree by which our ancestors believed cosmic powers flowed through its tree trunk. It was believed the tree held the heavenly vault. There is a symbolic relation between the heavenly vault, earth and the underworld," Barrera added.
The Aztecs, a warlike and deeply religious people who built monumental works, ruled an empire stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean and encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico.
Their often bloody reign began in the 14th century and ended when they were subjugated in 1521 by the Spanish led Hernan Cortes.
The Aztecs began building the Templo Mayor pyramid-shaped temple in 1375. Its ruins are now only yards from downtown's choking traffic.
The temple was a centre of human sacrifice. At one ceremony in 1487, historians say tens of thousands of victims were sacrificed, their hearts ripped out.
Spanish conquistadors destroyed the temple when they razed the city and used its stones to help build their own capital.
Now the site is surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings like Mexico City's cathedral and the historical National Palace as well as convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.