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What secrets were revealed by the ruins of an Aztec palace, found during the renovation of a building in Mexico City

What secrets were revealed by the ruins of an Aztec palace, found during the renovation of a building in Mexico City 1

Mexican archaeologists have found the remains of the residences of the Aztec ruler Aksayakatl and the leader of the Spanish conquistadors Hernan Cortes in Mexico City. 

The ruins are located under a historic building in the central square of the capital. After the capture of Tenochtitlan in 1521, Cortes ordered to build a house on the site of the destroyed palace. This structure was also the temporary headquarters of the first ruler of New Spain. What secrets are hidden in the home of the man believed to be responsible for the fall of one of the greatest empires in history?

While renovating the Nacional Monte de Piedad building, which dates back to 1755 and is now a historic pawnshop in Mexico City’s central square, workers stumbled upon unusual basalt slab floors beneath the structure. According to archaeologists, the floors were an open area in the palace of the Aztec ruler Aksayakatl, the father of Montezuma, one of the last rulers of the ancient Aztec empire (1469-1481).

While renovating a historic building, workers stumbled upon unusual basalt slabs.
While renovating a historic building, workers stumbled upon unusual basalt slabs.

By order of Hernan Cortes, a house was erected on the site of the ruins of the palace of the defeated Aztecs in the capital of their empire. The palace, built around 1475, was one of the buildings taken over by the soldiers of the Spanish conquistador Cortez after the conquest of Tenochtitlan in 1521.

Hernan Cortez.
Hernan Cortez.

Experts from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said the area “was part of the open space of the old Aksayakatl palace, probably a patio.” During excavations, archaeologists also found evidence of the existence of the House of Cortez at the site. It was built after the fall of the Aztec empire. Experts said the floor was probably made from materials from the Aksayakatl Palace that were being reused. The royal palace was destroyed by the conquistadors, like many other sacred buildings of the Aztecs.

Historic building in the central square of Mexico City.
Historic building in the central square of Mexico City.

The walls of the palace have been silent witnesses to many significant historical events. The most striking of these is the death of the Tlatoani, or King of Montezuma Xokoocin. Unexpected twists and turns of fate, as well as the purposeful efforts of some greedy individuals, have undermined relations between Mexico and Spain and sparked open confrontation. Archaeologists first discovered the ruins in September 2017, and excavations and research are still ongoing.

Hernan Cortez built his home on the ruins of the Aksayakatl Palace using materials from the demolished royal residence.

Hernan Cortez built his home on the ruins of the Aksayakatl Palace using materials from the demolished royal residence.

Among other things, archaeologists have found two statues of the Aztec gods.
Among other things, archaeologists have found two statues of the Aztec gods.

The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez first arrived in modern Mexico in 1518 on an expedition to prepare this part of the region for brutal colonization. Cortez and his entourage laid siege to and destroyed the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan in 1521, killing the locals and spreading deadly diseases from which the local population had no immunity. Cortez’s expedition was a key turning point in the fall of the Aztec Empire.

Excavation site.
Excavation site.

At this central location of such tumultuous historical events, archaeologists Raul Barrera Rodriguez, program manager for Urban Archeology (PAU), Jose Maria García Guerrero and their team discovered two statues. One of which is dedicated to the feathered serpent, the god Quetzalcoatl.

Since the fall of the mighty empire of the Aztecs, the future of Mexico has become entirely Spanish. The Aztec state was greatly expanded under the reign of Uncle Montezuma. The huge empire under Montezuma already numbered between five and six million people. He was a great commander and a cruel ruler, which is why many of his subjects did not particularly like him. As a result, this discontent led to the opposition group forming a coalition with Cortez. The final was disastrous for everyone but the last one.

When Cortes and his conquistadors conquered Tenochtitlan, in the palace of Aksayakatl, one of the rooms was immediately converted into a place for a Catholic mass. In the same room, the Spaniards held the rulers they had captured, including Montezuma, Cuitlahuac of Istapalapa, Kakamacin of Texcoco, and Itsuaucina of Tlatelolco.

On May 22, 1520, during the Toxcatl festival held in honor of the god Huitzilopochtli, the Spaniards surrounded the Aztecs, drove them into one place and began a real massacre. On June 30, the Spaniards captured Tlaxcala. The survivors were used as slaves to demolish palaces and temples and build a new home for Cortez using materials from destroyed buildings.

The House of Cortes was built from materials from the destroyed royal palace.
The House of Cortes was built from materials from the destroyed royal palace.

Hernán Cortés’ house above the Aztec palace became the temporary headquarters of the first Cabildo of New Spain in 1525 and the new seat of the Marquisate of the Oaxaca Valley, a Spanish nobleman who established the government of Mexico City around 1529. Montezuma, on the other hand, died under very dubious circumstances during the initial Spanish retreat. In July 1520, the Aztecs were completely defeated at the Battle of Otumba and Cortes by August 1521 took full control of Tenochtitlan. The city was soon renamed Mexico City.

This house was preserved by the Cortes family after his death in 1547. The building was in their ownership until his son Martin Cortez Zuniga was expelled for conspiracy to overthrow the government of New Spain. The dilapidated property was sold to the Sacro Monte de Piedad in 1836.

Historians often claim that Montezuma and his people thought the Spanish conquistadors were gods, but this is most likely not true. The Aztecs were passionately religious people, but they were by no means fools. Some experts believe that Montezuma simply waited until the Aztecs could wipe out the Spaniards. It just wasn’t meant to be. Internal divisions led to the fall of the great Aztec empire.

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After Montezuma, his brother Cuitlahuac became ruler, along with his nephew Cuautemok, but the Aztec Empire was already in ruins. Cuautemoc was captured by the Spaniards in the hope of finding out the whereabouts of the wealth of the Aztecs, but he stubbornly refused to answer all questions, only mocking his tormentors. By order of Cortez, Cuautemoc was executed. The decline of the greatest and most powerful empire took place.

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