The story

Pre-Hispanic Symbols Found in a Mexican Tunnel


Archaeologists in Ecatepec, México state, have found a centuries old tunnel with symbolic imagery. The tunnel in Ecatepec is part of a 17th-century colonial dike system called the Albarradón de Ecatepec and archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History ( INAH) have found 11 pre-Hispanic symbols detailed on the side walls of the tunnel.

According to an article in Mexico News Daily , an INAH spokesperson said in a statement that among the images discovered on the walls of the 8.4-meter-long (27.6 ft.) tunnel were petroglyphs, stucco relief panels, a war shield, a bird of prey’s head, and a “paper ornament.” Furthermore, a teocalli, or temple, was found etched into the central stone of the arch entrance dedicated to the rain god Tláloc , according to the INAH archaeologists.

A teocalli, or temple, was found etched into the central stone of the arch entrance dedicated to the rain god Tláloc. ( Edith Camacho, INAH )

Aztec/Spanish Water Wars

The meaning of some of the carved and embossed images is yet unknown and Raúl García, coordinator of a project to preserve the archaeological dike system, said that the images might have been executed by the indigenous people who lived in the pre-Hispanic towns of Ecatepec and Chiconautla. Supporting this hypothesis, archaeologists know that indigenous residents from both of these towns had worked on the construction of the dike.

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The tunnel is part of a 2.5-mile-long (4 km) network of dikes upon which construction began in the 15th century by Moctezuma I to control the flow of water into what is today Mexico City, which stood on an island at the center of a complex system of inland lakes. Moctezuma I was the second Aztec emperor and fifth king of Tenochtitlan who ruled between 1440 to 1453 AD and is credited by historians as having consolidated the Aztec Empire and set in motion a major social expansion program which thrived with 11,000,000 people until the arrival of the Spanish.

The tunnel is part of a 2.5-mile-long network of dikes. ( Edith Camacho, INAH )

The dike was eventually destroyed by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and later reconstructed to control flooding. Dr. García explained that the tunnel in which the images were discovered is in a section of the dike known as the Patio de Diligencias , or ‘courtyard of diligence’.

Heirs Of Aztec Cultural Heritage

Among the other less symbolic artifacts found within the ancient tunnel were four iron nails, two wooden beams, and a pile of organic material that is thought to have perhaps been part of a gate leading to the 17th-century dike. The glyphs and stucco panels have been damaged by hundreds of years of rain and changing environmental conditions, and after they have been carefully covered for protection, México state INAH director Antonio Huitrón said these special stones will be transferred to the Casa Morelos Community Center in Ecatepec and that the originals would be replaced with replicas at the site.

Ecatepec is Mexico’s second most populous municipality located just north of Mexico City and is part of the Valley of Mexico metropolitan area. The Albarradón de Ecatepec was declared a historical monument in 2001 and will now be incorporated into a public park. It is hoped the opening of this new park will allow people to enjoy the “cultural heritage to which they are heirs.” The tunnel where the images were discovered will also be open to the public where they can photograph identical replicas.

The tunnel where the images were discovered will also be open to the public where they can photograph identical replicas. (Edith Camacho, INAH )

Collapse of a Thriving Empire

When the Spanish conquistadors arrived, led by Hernán Cortés , they initially befriended the leader of the Aztecs, Motecuhzoma II, and valuable gifts were exchanged. But on June 30, 1520 AD, in what became known as the Noche Triste, Cortés besieged the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan on the western shore of Lake Texcoco but was repelled by the Aztec warriors.

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10 months later, in 1521 AD, Cortés returned with allies and again laid siege to the Aztec capital city and lacking resources and having been ravaged by disease, the Aztecs, now led by Cuauhtemoc, finally collapsed on August 13, 1521 AD. Tenochtitlan was destroyed and from the ashes rose the new capital of the colony of ‘New Spain’ and the ancient lineage of Mesoamerican people with heritage and traditions originating with Olmec cultures came to a sharp, bloody, and quick end.


Pre-Columbian Mexico

The pre-Columbian history of the territory now making up the country of Mexico is known through the work of archaeologists and epigraphers, and through the accounts of Spanish conquistadores, settlers and clergymen as well as the indigenous chroniclers of the immediate post-conquest period.

Human presence in the Mexican region was once thought to date back 40,000 years based upon what were believed to be ancient human footprints discovered in the Valley of Mexico, but after further investigation using radioactive dating, it appears this is untrue. [1] It is currently unclear whether 21,000-year-old campfire remains found in the Valley of Mexico are the earliest human remains in Mexico. [2] Indigenous peoples of Mexico began to selectively breed maize plants around 8000 BC. Evidence shows a marked increase in pottery working by 2300 BC and the beginning of intensive corn farming between 1800 and 1500 BC.

Between 1800 and 300 BC, complex cultures began to form. Many matured into advanced pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations such as the: Olmec, Izapa, Teotihuacan, Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Huastec, Purépecha, Totonac, Toltec, and Aztec, which flourished for nearly 4,000 years before the first contact with Europeans.


Historians in Mexico have found an intriguing, 11 drawings decorated tunnel from the 17th century.

The pictures were created before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, but were incorporated into the walls of the tunnel when it was built centuries later.

This suggests that the Aztecs, known for their magnificent temples, the method of a hieroglyphic writing system, and gruesome penchant for sacrificing children.

In the 15th century, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma I ordered the construction, in an attempt to control severe flooding from surrounding rivers, of a reservoir project in what is now Mexico City.

However, when infamous conquistador Hernán Cortés and his posse arrived, the system was destroyed, before being rebuilt in the 17th century. The dike system is now known as the Albarradon de Ecatepec.

The stone used in the initial construction was likely repurposed when the dikes were rebuilt, explaining the Aztec symbols etched into the sides of the tunnel.

It is believed they were drawn by locals from the nearby towns of Chiconautla and Ecatepec prior to the Spanish invasion.

The images include both petroglyphs (rock carvings) and stucco relief panels and depict various things, including a war shield or chimalli, the head of a bird of prey, and a flint point.

Some icons are still being carefully examined to assess what they might portray, notes INAH, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

The head of a bird of prey drawn on the rock.

The main arch of the tunnel also includes an etching of a temple dedicated to Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain, earthly fertility, and water. He was viewed by the Aztecs as a provider of life and sustenance.

Hidden within the 8-meter (27-foot) tunnel also lay various artifacts made from glass, porcelain, and a type of pottery called majolica, along with a statue of a seated person that appears to be missing its head and the lone feet of a larger statue.

The discovery is part of a long-term government project to excavate the Albarradón de Ecatepec, which has been running since 2004.

The newly discovered tunnel is located 500 meters (1,640 feet) from the start of the Albarradón in an area called Patio de Diligencias.

The INAH now plans to replace the glyphs with replicas and house the originals in the Casa de Morelos Community Center.

The depiction of a temple dedicated to the Aztec god of rain.

Mr Arellanes says initial investigations suggest a ceremonial area, flanked by temples and the homes of the rulers, would have been located at the top of the mountain.

The archaeologist thinks the site would have also had seven pyramids and a court to play pelota, a game in which players used their hips to propel a rubber ball through stone hoops.

Puebla is an area rich with archaeological ruins but locals said they were proud to have led archaeologists to this latest find.

Experts are still analysing the finds but said the site could have been built by people belonging to the Zapotec civilization, also known as the "Cloud People", which originated in the area 2,500 years ago and had a sophisticated architecture and style of writing based on glyphs.

Those following the Zapotec religion believed in lots of gods, many of them associated with agriculture or animals.


Tunnel found under Teotihuacan Temple in Mexico

The Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan. near Mexico City

Researchers found a tunnel under the Temple of the Snake in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, about 28 miles northeast of Mexico City.

The tunnel had apparently been sealed off around 1,800 years ago.

Archaeologists work inside a tunnel found under the ruins of the Feathered Serpent Temple

Researchers of Mexico’s National University made the finding with a radar device. Closer study revealed a “representation of the underworld,” in the words of archaeologist Sergio Gomez Chavez, of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Researchers have only advanced 7 metres along the tunnel but the radar has revealed it to be 120 metres long and covered in symbols. It is thought that the passage leads to three chambers and may help explain the beliefs of the civilisation.

The tunnel, which is 13 metres below the ground, was originally discovered by chance in 2003 after heavy rains seeped into a tiny hole in the ground. No monarch’s tomb has ever been found at the site near Mexico City.

Sergio Gomez Chavez, an archaeologist at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, said: ‘At the end, there are several chambers which could hold the remains of the rulers of that Mesoamerican civilization.

The Pyramid of the Sun and the Avenue of the Dead in Teotihuacan

Mysterious Aztec carvings found in tunnel beneath Mexico City

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Mysterious carvings from the time of the Aztecs were recently discovered in Mexico City in a very unlikely place: In a tunnel that dates back to the 17th century, according to IFL Science:

“Archaeologists in Mexico have unearthed an intriguing tunnel that dates back to the 17 th century adorned with 11 drawings. It is thought the images were created before the Spanish conquistadors arrived, but were incorporated into the walls of the tunnel when it was built centuries later. That means they were likely created by the Aztecs, an empire famed for their beautiful temples, hieroglyphic writing system, and gruesome penchant for sacrificing children.”

The head of a bird of prey drawn on the rock in the Mexico City tunnel (Via INAH)

Among the most interesting of the images were “the carvings of a chimalli or war shield … the head of a bird of prey, a flint point and an element that archaeologist Alfonso Caso identified as (a) ‘paper ornament.'”

Empire of the Aztecs

In the 15th century, according to historians and archaeologists, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma I decreed construction of a dike system in what is now Mexico City for the purpose of controlling flooding from lakes in the area around what is now the capital of Mexico.

However, shortly after construction began, Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived with troops and decimated the Aztec empire, destroying what had been built of the dike system, which lay dormant until it was rebuilt in the 17th century. Today, the system is known as the Albarradon de Ecatepec.

The arch of the tunnel, which is adorned with various Aztec carvings (Via INAH)

Recycling the Past

So how exactly did the ancient Aztec carvings wind up being a part of a water system built three centuries after the Aztec empire was destroyed? By repurposing stone that had been put in place by Aztec workmen some 300 years earlier:

“The stone used in the initial construction was likely repurposed when the dikes were rebuilt, explaining the Aztec symbols etched into the sides of the tunnel. It is believed they were drawn by locals from the nearby towns of Chiconautla and Ecatepec prior to Spanish invasion.”

The remains of statues were also found in the tunnel (Via INAH)
God of Rain

Along the arch of the main tunnel is an etching of a temple that was dedicated to Tlaloc, who was the Aztec god of rain, earthly fertility, and water. Tlaloc was revered by the Aztecs as a provider of life and sustenance.

Tlaloc by Eddo via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

And there were other fascinating discoveries made by a team from INAH, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History:

“Hidden within the 8-meter (27-foot) tunnel also lay various artifacts made from glass, porcelain, and a type of pottery called majolica, along with a statue of a seated person that appears to be missing its head and the lone feet of a larger statue.”

The depiction of a temple dedicated to the Aztec god of rain (Via INAH)

Other symbols also seem to be a tribute to the god of rain, Live Science notes:

“Raindrop symbols were found on the upper part of the keystone — the top stone that holds the arch together — also on the east end of the tunnel where the water exited … On the west side, where the water once entered the tunnel, the researchers found one more petroglyph which they are currently studying. They also found four iron nails and two 21-foot-long (6.5 m) wooden beams.”

The Aztecs made countless drawings that have been discovered centuries later (Via YouTube)
A Massive Construction Project

When the Albarradon de Ecatepec was built, it took years and the labor of thousands of native people:

“Three thousand indigenous people are thought to have constructed this dike under the supervision of the Spanish friars Jeronimo de Aguilar and Juan de Torquemada, Chávez said. While the newfound carvings and stucco reliefs show influences from indigenous people, some of the construction techniques, such as the arches of the tunnel, more closely resemble European methods, according to the statement.”

Pre-Hispanic petroglyphs may have been the work of the indigenous people who built the colonial dike, experts say. (Via INAH)

For now, the main concern is to protect this valuable piece of history, INAH archaeologist Juan Manuel Toxtle said:

“It has always been essential that these types of elements remain in the best conditions and best protected.

“I think it is important that Mexicans realize that this is everyone’s heritage and that we have to take care of it.”

Here’s video shot of the discovery by Mexican archaeologists:


Mexican Pottery

Mexican Pottery is the most prolific and versatile type of Mexican Folk Art. Its variety shows the cultural, historic and geographic diversity of this country.


Pre-Hispanic Pottery
The oldest pottery pieces found in Mesoamerica are 4500 years old this is the time when the population became sedentary. The clay pieces found from that period are gourd shaped and were probably used to carry water.

Mesoamerican pottery was hand-coiled and low-fired, often slipped or burnished and sometimes painted with mineral pigments.

Every region developed its own pottery styles and techniques. Ceramic was used for domestic, ceremonial, funerary and construction purposes.

Mesoamerican civilizations' pottery production was such an integral part of their culture that many techniques survived the Spanish colonization.

Pottery During Colonial Times
Throughout the colony, the Spaniards introduced the potter's wheel, the enclosed kiln, lead glazes, pigments extracted from metal oxides and shapes such as the tile, the candle holder and the olive jar.

The New Spain was part of the commercial route between the Philippines and Spain. Spanish galleons sailed from Manila to Acapulco full of Asian goodies, including Chinese porcelain. From Acapulco the merchandise was carried by land to Veracruz, the main port in the Gulf of Mexico, and shipped to Spain.

Many of these goodies stayed in Mexico and significantly influenced the local artisans. Mayolica ceramic production, started in Puebla, is an example of this influence.


Contemporary Mexican Pottery
Contemporary Mexican Pottery reflects the cultural background of Mexican history.

The Spanish techniques, especially the glazing and firing the Native shapes, colors and patterns the Arabic influences brought in by the Spaniards and the colors and shapes from China, can be seen in many pottery styles throughout the country.

Handmade domestic wares have been replaced by mass produced cheaper ceramic. In order to survive, most Mexican pottery styles have shifted to decorative pieces.

The most popular and successful Mexican pottery styles today are:

Oaxacan Black Clay
The Black Clay (Barro Negro) from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca had been used by Zapotecs since pre-Hispanic times, but it was Rosa Real de Nieto, aka Doña Rosa, who discovered how to give the clay its now typical shiny black color.

Multicolored Clay from Izucar de Matamoros
The Multicolored Clay (Barro Policromado) from Izucar de Matamoros, a small community with an extensive pottery tradition, is widely appreciated for its delicate drawings and bright colors the town's pottery became internationally known thanks to Alfonso Castillo Orta's expertise and creativity. Among the most representative models in this style are the incense burners and the tree of life candle holders.


Painted Clay from Guerrero
Nahuatl folk painting can be fully appreciated in the Barro Pintado colorful birds, flowers, landscapes and everyday town activities. Boxes, plates, and animal figurines portray the Mezcala's people stories and costumes.

Clay Figurines from Tlaquepaque
In the beginning of the 20th Century Pantaleon Panduro revolutionized Tlaquepaque's pottery making with his incredible sculpting talent. This village near Guadalajara has a clay working heritage dating back to prehispanic times.

Pantaleon became internationally known for his clay busts and figurines and created a tradition that lasts till today. With their clay effigies and nativity scenes Panduro and his descendants enriched Tlaquepaque's pottery heritage.

Pottery from Capula
Capula is a small village in Michoacan state with a pre-Hispanic pottery tradition. Clay tableware delicately decorated with flowers and fishes, kitchen plates painted with the town's unique dotting style and most recently clay Catrinas award Capula Pottery international reputation.

The Majolica
Mexican majolica pottery was first made in Puebla in the 16th Century spreading later to Guanajuato and Aguascalientes. Nowadays the most recognized Majolica workshops are "Gorky Gonzalez", "Capelo" and "Ceramica Santa Rosa".

Two legitimate talavera workshops are "Talavera Uriarte" who keeps with the traditional designs and "Talavera de la Reyna" sought after for its contemporary styles.

Talavera Uriarte Building

Mata Ortiz Pottery
Mata Ortiz, a small town located near the remains of the ancient city Paquime, has become internationally recognized thanks to its ceramic production.

Artisans from the village, located in Chihuahua state, have successfully reproduced the delicate hand coiled and elegantly painted vases and bowls made by the unknown early inhabitants of Paquime.

Clay figures from Metepec
In Metepec, a town in the Toluca Valley, pottery making is a tradition since pre-Colonial times. They specialized in, sun faces, and green tableware until 1940 when Modesta Fernández Mata began making the Tree of Life.

Today Metepec is internationally known for these sculptures and Modesta's descendants, the Soteno family, have been repeatedly awarded for their incredibly detailed creations.

Tonala's Burnished Clay
This clay style from Tonala includes necked jugs decorated with twisted animals, such as rabbits, birds and cats. Frequent color combinations include delicate tones of rose, gray-blue and white on a background of brown, light gray, green or blue.

The Barro Bruñido pieces are rubbed with a rock until their surface is so polished it looks as if they were glazed.


Secret 'passage to the underworld' tunnel discovered beneath Mexican pyramid

Researchers have uncovered a mysterious chamber and tunnel under Mexico’s Pyramid of the Moon. They believe it was used as a ritual space for funerals.

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered a mysterious tunnel and chamber beneath the Pyramid of the Moon in the ancient city of Teotihuacán.

Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the Institute of Geophysics at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) located the hidden spaces at the famous site near Mexico City.

With a diameter of 49 feet, the chamber may be a ritual space that was used for funerals, according to experts. The hidden room and its tunnel could be linked to the ancient culture’s concept of the underworld, they say, in a statement.

The chamber and tunnel were discovered using electrical resistance technology in Summer 2017. The results of the archaeologists’ study have just been announced.

The chamber and tunnel were discovered beneath the Pyramid of the Moon. (Photo Mauricio Marat INAH)

Human skeletons have been found in other tunnels excavated at the Pyramid of the Moon, prompting speculation that similar remains may be inside the newly-discovered tunnel.

The tunnel, which runs to the southern part of Teotihuacán’s Plaza of the Moon, is the latest fascinating find to shed new light on Mexico’s ancient history. An ancient mask depicting a 7th-century Maya king, for example, was recently discovered in southern Mexico.

A vast array of skulls buried beneath the streets of modern Mexico City are also revealing the grisly details of Aztec human sacrifice.

Models generated by studying of electrical resistance in the subsoil of the Pyramid of the Moon. (Courtesy Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM)

The area was once the epicenter of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan - a gruesome site where human sacrifices were performed to honor the gods.


Mysterious Aztec Tunnel World Discovered in Mexico

Among Anglos, no name reminds them more of Mexico than Montezuma, the first Aztec to encounter Europeans and whose death during the Spanish conquest led by Hernán Cortés spawned the legendary curse of diarrhea on gringo travelers to Mexico to avenge the slaughter and enslavement of the Aztec people by Cortés. What’s less known is that this was Montezuma II. Montezuma I (also known as Moctezuma I and Moteuczomatzin Ilhuicamina) was the second Aztec emperor and the fifth king of Tenochtitlan (Montezuma II was the ninth king) and his name popped up in the news again this week, nearly 500 years after his death in 1520. Archaeologists have discovered a secret Aztec tunnel world believed to have been built by Montezuma I in honor of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of water and fertility. What mysteries does this pre-Hispanic tunnel hold?

“The most surprising thing is that we found a wooden hatch, which is a unique find in all that are the levee systems of the basin of Mexico, because in general, these types of elements are hardly preserved.”

Raúl García Chávez, coordinator of the archaeological salvage and enhancement project for the Mexican Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), told Turquesa News that the tunnel found underneath the city of Ecatepec de Morelos, north of and second in size to Mexico City, was densely decorated with inscriptions, carvings and paintings as well as this well-preserved wooden hatch which indicated that the tunnel was used to control the waters of the nearby lakes of Zumpango and Xaltocan, a task associated with the god of water, who was also blamed for floods and storms. (Photos of the excavation can be seen here.)

According to García Chávez, the excavation project has been going on for fifteen years – far longer than it took the people of the 15th century to build the tunnel, which he estimated to be eight months to dig this 4 km (2.5 mile) structure. It’s not clear if the decorations and artifacts were completed in the same timeframe. Those include petroglyphs depicting a chimalli (war shield), the head of a bird of prey and a flint point. The wall carvings show a temple and raindrops that “indicates that the size and the temple it represents, have a link with Tlaloc.”

The west end of the tunnel was the access point to the waterways and there the excavators found four iron nails, two wooden beams 6.50 meters long and organic material that may be a decomposed gate attached to the dike holding back the waters.

The wall coverings and stuccos are more interesting to archeologists. García Chávez believes they show that inhabitants of the pre-Hispanic towns of Ecatepec and Chiconautla worked together on the project with indigenous people in the region to build the dike – cooperation that was unheard of in those times.

Areas conquered by Aztec rulers.

The discovery of this tunnel is important to archeologists because it will help discover more of the unwritten history of the pre-Hispanic era, whose history has been inaccurately rewritten by the post-Hispanics. It’s also important to modern Mexicans because they’re struggling with water shortages, pollution and flooding – problems which their ancestors worked together to solve.

Can today’s Mexicans cooperate to solve their current water problems like their ancestors did? If that happened, both Montezumas would be pleased.


Mexican monolith could change history

MEXICO CITY - A carved monolith unearthed in Mexico may show that the Olmec civilization, one of the oldest in the Americas, was more widespread than thought or that another culture thrived alongside it 3,000 years ago.

Findings at the newly excavated Tamtoc archaeological site in the north-central state of San Luis Potosi may prompt scholars to rethink a view of Mesoamerican history that holds its earliest peoples were based in the south of Mexico.

"It is a very relevant indicator of an Olmec penetration far to the north, or of the presence of a new group co-existing with the Olmecs," said archaeologist Guillermo Ahuja, who led a government team excavating the site for the past five years.

Tamtoc, located about 550 miles (885 kilometers) northeast of Mexico City, is being opened to the public this week, while experts including linguists, historians, ethnographers and others study findings from the site to confirm their origins.

The Olmecs are considered the mother culture of pre-Hispanic Mexico. Ruins of Olmec centers believed to have flourished as early as 1200 B.C. have been found in the Gulf Coast states of Veracruz and Tabasco, with only scattered artifacts found elsewhere.

Workers restoring a canal at the site stumbled on the stone monolith. It appears to represent a lunar calendar and contains three human figures and other symbols in relief.

At 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, 13 feet (4 meters) high, 16 inches (40 centimeters) thick and weighing more than 30 tons, it may date to as early as 900 B.C., Ahuja said.

Experts will try to interpret the icons to learn more about the artists and their culture. "They are new symbols in Mesoamerica," Ahuja said.

At Tamtoc, scientists found evidence of an advanced civilization, with a hydraulic system, canals and other technology, making it the oldest and most advanced center of its time found in what later became Huasteco Indian region, Ahuja said.

"It is the first and only Huasteco City we know," he said.

The 330-acre (133-hectare) complex has three plazas and more than 70 buildings and may indicate that the Olmecs migrated northward and mingled with other peoples there, he said.


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