Discovery of new human skull from Aztec remains in Mexico City

Discovery of new human skull from Aztec remains in Mexico City


In the remains of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, archaeologists have unearthed more than 100 human skulls. These come in addition to other findings of the same type, totaling more than 480 skulls. This new discovery results from the release of a very particular structure.

A structure described by the conquistadors
In 2015, archaeologists discovered hundreds of human skulls while conducting excavations in the ancient Aztec capital Tenochtitlan, specifically the ruins of the Templo Mayor. The bones, carefully stacked on top of each other, formed a “tzompantli”. It is a type of vertical structure built with the heads of the victims of the Aztecs. Moreover, this practice was also present among other Mesoamerican peoples.

According to a Mexican government statement released on December 11, 2020, archaeologists believe these skulls are part of the Huey Tzompantli. This wall of bones was described by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century after the capture of Tenochtitlan (1521). However, the 2015 excavations failed to uncover the entire structure. It is now done and 119 bones have been added to the others for a total of more than 480 skulls.

Discoveries shaking up a theory
The first of these 119 skulls appeared in March 2020. Archaeologists were carrying out repair operations on one of the walls of a historic building on Calle República de Guatemala, in the historic center of Mexico City. Recall that after taking Tenochtitlan, it was almost shaved. However, some fragments of the Huey Tzompantli were subsequently dispersed in the surrounding area. The National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) explained – via a post on Twitter – that the structure stretches 4.7 meters in diameter and could date back to the reign of the ruler Ahuitzotl, having reigned from 1486 to 1502. In addition, the Huey Tzompantli was located near a chapel dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, tribal god of War and the protective Sun of the Aztecs.

The skulls that make up the tzompantlis belong to enemy warriors who died in combat. In any case, that’s what archaeologists have always thought. However, the discoveries made since 2015 in Mexico City have challenged this theory. Indeed, some skulls are those of children, women and young men. According to archaeologists, it could therefore be that the structures also incorporated skulls of individuals reserved for sacrificial ceremonies honoring the gods.