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News and stories from the world of Archaeology and its related disciplines

What lies below the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan?

From ArtDaily:

After eight months of excavation, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have located, 12 meters below , the entrance to the tunnel leading to a series of galleries beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, in the Archaeologcial Area of Teotihuacan, where the remains of rulers of the ancient city could have been deposited.

In a tour made by to site today with the media, archaeologist Sergio Chavez Gomez, director of the Tlalocan Project went below the ground and announced the advances in the systematic exploration undertaken by the INAH of the underground conduit, which was closed for about 1,800 years by the inhabitants of Teotihuacan themselves and where no one has gone in since then.

Teotihuacan – Temple of the Feathered Serpent (Photo:jschmeling)

INAH specialists hope to enter the tunnel in a couple of months and will be the first to enter after hundreds of years since it was closed. This excavation, which represents the most profound that has been done in the pre-Hispanic site, is part of the commemorations for the first 100 years of uninterrupted archaeological explorations (made in 1910) also called the City of Gods.

Gómez Chávez explained that the tunnel passes under the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the most important building of the Citadel, “and the entry was located a few meters from the pyramid.

Access is by a vertical shaft of about five meters per side down to a depth of 14 meters from the surface, the entrance leads into a long corridor with an estimated length of 100 meters which ends in a series of underground chambers excavated in the rock.

The tunnel was discovered in late 2003 by Sergio Gomez and Julie Gazzola, but its exploration has required several years of planning and managing the financial resources necessary to carry out research at the highest scientific level. The team is composed of more than 30 people and has advisors renowned nationally and internationally.

Before starting the excavations, the archaeologists from INAH had the collaboration of Dr. Victor Manuel Velasco, from the Institute of Geophysics of the UNAM, through a the use of a GPR it was determined that the tunnel has a length of about 100 meters, and has large chambers inside.

Another of the technologies used in the exploration has been the laser scanner, a sophisticated device with high resolution, facilitated by the National Coordination of Historical Monuments (CNMH). INAH made the three-dimensional record of the archaeological finds.

Just a couple of weeks ago, archaeologists corroborated that the tunnel entrance was located in the place they had anticipated, then opened a small hollow hole at the top of the access, and using the scanner took the first images from inside the tunnel to a length of 37 meters, of the 100 it is estimated to have in length.

Teotihuacan (Photo: Antonio Peralta)

“Although we need to excavate two more meters to reach the floor of the tunnel, having the first images of the inside will allow us to better plan how to enter. Even so, we will have to withdraw a large amount of soil and a heavy block of stone that blocks the access.

“The whole process could take two more months of work, as we continue with the same systematic exploration that we have done from the start to avoid losing important information that lets us know what activities the citizens of Teotihuacan performed thousands of years ago and why they decided to close it, “said archaeologist Sergio Gomez.

So far, 200 tons of earth have been withdrawn, he said, while doing this we have found about 60,000 pieces of artifacts and pottery.

Angel Mora, who belongs to the Technology Support Unit of the CNMH, and engineer Juan Carlos Garcia, who operates the scanner, said that by introducing the laser, which has a range of 300 meters, through the small hollow opening the archaeologists made, there was only a length of 37 meters. Mora noted that this reading is because the laser beam “runs into something, maybe with some collapsed stones or because the tunnel has a gap.”

Sergio Gomez reported that it has not yet been precisely determined the time of construction of the tunnel, however it he has a better idea of when it was closed by the people from Teotihuacan. “Several indications suggest that access to the underground passage was closed between 200 and 250 AD, probably after depositing something inside. One of the hypotheses postulate that, within the large chamber detected by the GPR, we could locate the remains of important people in the city. “

The investigations have led to know with certainty that this tunnel was made prior to the construction of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and the Citadel. The tunnel is contemporary with a large architectural structure, which could be a ball game court, according to theform of the ground, said the archaeologist.

Unfortunately, the INAH researcher said, when the tunnel was closed, large stones were thrown which blocked access, “and the court was also destroyed and razed by the people of Teotihuacan, only small remnants remain.

Quetzalcoatl as depicted in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (Wikimedia Commons)

“Locating the entrance to the tunnel fulfills one of the most important objectives of the Project Tlalocan, to precisely confirm that the main entrance was located in the exact spot where the excavation is planned. We must continue the excavation of the vertical shaft until it reaches the floor level to thereby start scanning the tunnel towards the East. “

According to the hypothesis about the meaning and symbolism of the tunnel, archaeologist Sergio Gomez, said the tunnel had to be linked to concepts related to the underworld, hence it is possible that in this place were carried out initiation rituals and the divine investiture of Teotihuacan rulers, since the power was acquired in these sacred spaces.

Also, it is known that rulers were buried in the holiest places. “For a long time local and foreign archaeologists have attempted to locate the graves of the rulers of the ancient city, but the search has been fruitless.

“That’s why every day our expectations are increasing, as there are many chances that they are sitting inside a large tomb or offering. However, it is not something we are obsessed wih, the discovery and systematic exploration of the tunnel is something of great significance for archaeological research and a unique opportunity to approach the cosmogonic and religious thought of ancient Teotihuacan. “

From ArtDaily

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Teotihuacan – Mexico’s Mysterious Pyramid City

Excellent news for all the Aztec aficionados – “Teotihuacan – Mexico’s Mysterious Pyramid City” is the name of an exhibition to be presented by the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin from 1 July to 10 October 2010.

In memoriam Felipe Solís Olguin (1944–2009)
The initiator and curator of this exhibition was Felipe Solís Olguín, who had brought the “Aztecs” to Berlin in 2003. The director of the world-famous “Museo Nacional de Antropología” in Mexico City died in April 2009, a few weeks before the great show opened there. The exhibition is dedicated to his memory.

Here are some more details from Berliner Festspiele:

Exhibition poster

More than 450 outstanding objects giving a comprehensive insight into the art, everyday life and religion of this enigmatic culture will be on view in Europe for the first time. They include specimens of monumental architecture, filigree vessels and figures, costly stone carvings, masks, statues of gods and representations of animals as well as examples of highly symbolic murals which have retained their brilliant colours since their creation some 2,000 years ago. Permission has been given for the first (and probably the last) time for the 15 large-format fragments of murals to be sent abroad. Numerous exhibits were only discovered in the latest excavations.

In its Classical Epoch (100 B.C. to 650 A.D.) Teotihuacan was the first, largest and most influential metropolis on the American continent. Some thousand years later, in the 14th century, when the Aztecs discovered the abandoned ruins of the city, they gave it the name of Teotihuacan – “the place at which men become gods” – and used it as the setting for their own creation myth.

Archaeological Site
Located nearly 50 kilometres to the north of Mexico City, Teotihuacan has had UNESCO heritage status since 1987 and is the most frequently visited of Mexico’s 170 accessible archaeological sites. The pyramid city lies in a wide valley that has been settled since time immemorial. Between the first century B.C. and about 650 A.D. the inhabitants laid out a unique Ceremonial Centre on the basis of astronomical observations. The main pyramids are the 63-metre-high Pyramid of the Sun, (Pirámide del Sol) with a lateral length of 215 metres, and the 48-metre-high Pyramid of the Moon (Pirámide de la Luna) at the northern end of the two kilometre-long Avenue of the Dead (Calzada de los Muertos). The southern end of the ensemble, of which only a fraction has been excavated and studied, is dominated by what the Spaniards called the “Citadel” (Ciudadela), containing the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent (Templo de la Serpiente Emplumada), and the Aztec Rain God, Tlaloc, which is decorated with 365 sculptures of these divinities. In this complex and under the Pyramid of the Moon archaeologists have made important discoveries in recent decades, showing that burials and sacrificial offerings, wars and taking of captives, were part of everyday life in Teotihuacan.

The City

Pyramid of the Sun

Until its mysterious end in the 7th century, which was accompanied by a devastating fire, Teotihuacan was a powerful political, military, economic and cultural centre that influenced the whole of Mesoamerica, especially in the fields of architecture and art. The area covered by the city, which in its heyday was home to over 160,000 people and was one of the greatest cities in the world, was about 20 square kilometres. It was laid out along wide avenues and had efficiently functioning drainage and water-supply systems. The imposing and splendid pyramids, temples and palaces were coated with stucco and decorated with murals in brilliant colours. There were public buildings, administrative quarters, and various residential areas. Particularly worthy of note are the accommodations and workshops kept for visiting artists, craftsmen and traders from such places as Oaxaca or the Maya cities, who contributed to the city’s prosperity.

The Exhibition
Treasures from leading Mexican museums have been brought together for this exhibition. Most of the exhibits come from the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and the two museums in Teotihuacan itself. In addition, the Anahuacalli Museum – built by Diego Rivera for his collection of pre-Spanish sculptures – has for the first time lent valuable items.

The exhibition is divided into nine sections. The first item to welcome the visitor is the Great Jaguar of Xalla, one of the more recent finds from a palace complex and a characteristic example of decorative monumental architecture. An introduction to the development of the city and its archaeological history is followed by a section on architecture and town planning as represented by sculptures, friezes and murals. The social themes of politics, hierarchies, economy, war and commerce are represented by a multitude of objects, including stone sculptures, clay vessels and jade jewellery. Obsidian, for example, was the material from which weapons were made, Teotihuacan being a great manufactory of weapons. There is a spectacular reconstruction of a tomb found under the Pyramid of the Moon in the course of an excavation campaign in 1998-2004. Original objects are shown in glass cases. A special category may be seen in the “innkeeper figures”, which house inside them tiny, elaborately shaped figurines arranged as in a seedling box. Religion, gods and rituals, urban and social life, art, crafts and workshops as well as cultural exchange are further themes of this unique show, which displays a wealth of new findings.

From Berliner Festspiele

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