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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

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.

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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Ancient

The flood during the Sumerian civilization

“And behold, I will bring a flood of water on the earth, to destroy all flesh, in which there is the spirit of life, under heaven; everything on earth will lose its life. But with you I will establish my covenant, and you will enter the ark, you, and your sons, and your wife, and your sons’ wives with you … ”.

This is how the epic story of Noah began in the Old Testament – a righteous man chosen by God to build a huge ship and save all kinds of living creatures. However, the myth of the great flood that destroyed sinners was not an invention of the ancient Jews.

"Winter.  Global flood".  Nicolas Poussin.
“Winter. Global flood”. Nicolas Poussin. Source: wikipedia.org

The Sumerian civilization is rightfully considered one of the most mysterious in world history. For several thousand years the cities of Lagash, Ur, Uruk (there are hundreds of names) were economic and cultural centers between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Permeated by a system of irrigation canals, the river valley was a granary for a large population.

Map of Ancient Sumer.
Map of Ancient Sumer. Source: medium.com

The winter months were accompanied by heavy rains and overflow of rivers. This is evidenced by the names of the tenth (December-January) and eleventh (January-February) months according to the Babylonian calendar – “drowning” and “beaten by the wind.” Agricultural cycles played a huge role in the life of Sumerian society.

However, the word “flood” could be used not only in relation to natural disasters. For example, the ancient Sumerian texts call the punishment of the king of the Akkadian dynasty Naram-Suena, the son of Sargon the Ancient, “flood”. The god of air and storms Enlil sent punishment to the ruler of the state for his unrighteousness.

The punishment itself had many stages, the most difficult was the plundering of the capital of the country of Nippur by the tribe of Kutii. Laments for Nippur became the mainstay of urban winter rituals. In them, the punishment of the gods is called “flood”, although, apparently, there was no talk of a water disaster.

Image of Naram-Suena on a stele from the city of Susa.
Image of Naram-Suena on a stele from the city of Susa. Source: wikipedia.org

In 1872, 32-year-old British engraver and Assyrologist George Smith, among the artifacts from the Ashurbanipal library, found a fragment of a clay tablet with a description of the legend of the Flood.

The find created a furor in European society – there were rolls over with the famous Old Testament legend about the righteous man Noah, who built the ark and survived a natural disaster. The following year, Smith was able to go on an expedition to Nineveh to find the missing fragments of the epic.

The trip was sponsored by Edwin Arnold, publisher of The Daily Telegraph. The search was crowned with success, and already in 1875 Smith published the results of his search in Assyrian Discoveries: An Account of Explorations and Discoveries on the Site of Nineveh, During 1873 to 1874.

George Smith.
George Smith

The legend said about the anger of the gods against people for their unrighteousness, the already mentioned Enlil again initiated the punishment. It rained for many days and nights. However, there was one survivor – the king of the city of Shuruppak Ziusudra, warned by the god of wisdom Ea about the approaching dark times.

Utnapishtim
Utnapishtim Source: Ziusudra) and the god Enki (Ea)

Indeed, in the 1930s, an expedition from the University of Pennsylvania led by archaeologist Erich Schmidt discovered a cultural layer in Shuruppak, consisting of deposits of clay and silt, which indicated flooding. The flood, dating back to the 5th and 4th millennia BC, also caused damage to the larger cities of Sumer – Uru, Uruk and Kish.

Ziusudra, who ruled in Shuruppak, according to legend, for several tens of thousands of years, built a huge ship to save his family, property and living creatures that lived on Earth:

“Everything that I had› I loaded there:

I put all the silver on the ship;

And he brought all the gold;

And I drove all the creatures of God there.

As well as family and relatives.

And from the fields and from the steppe

I brought all the insects there;

And he brought all the artisans to the ship. “

Noah's Ark.
Noah’s Ark. Source: ulltable.com

The cataclysm lasted 6 days, after which the water began to subside, and the ship ended up on the top of Mount Nisir – this is how Ararat was called in ancient times. The gods bestowed immortality on Ziusudra, and the human race again descended from him. The tradition is strikingly similar to the story of Noah. This allowed scholars to assert that the Semitic biblical legends were based on Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian myths.

This, however, did not end the story of the Sumerian righteous man. The last time, but under a different name, he appears in the epic about Gilgamesh – the heroic ruler of the city of Uruk. Utnapishtim (this is how Ziusudra was called in the Akkadian epic) tells the king how he achieved immortality. However, no plaque was found that would tell about the end of the conversation between the two powerful heroes.

Gilgamesh.
Gilgamesh. Source: tainy.net

It is possible that the motives of the Sumerian, and then the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian culture penetrated into the Jewish culture as a result of the famous Babylonian captivity of 598-582. BC. The former captives who returned after the conquest of the capital of the state of the X Chaldean dynasty by the Persian king Cyrus the Great and absorbed the mythological layer of the ancient civilization, apparently recorded the Old Testament legends in the Torah. 

Many stories reflected in the Bible are somehow connected with the Babylonian traditions, which, in turn, are inextricably linked with the Sumerian culture.

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Ancient

A settlement was found in Iceland, which is mentioned in fairy tales

In 2013, archaeologists studied the Icelandic sea bay of Arnarfjordur, on the territory of which, during the Middle Ages, the Vikings supposedly lived. In the course of scientific work, scientists discovered a pile of ash, which clearly remained after the complete combustion of the ancient house. 

Due to lack of funding, the excavation had to be postponed until 2017, but, in the end, the researchers managed to find the remains of a 10th century farm settlement. At the moment, it is known that it consists of a hut, a 23-meter earthen house, three small houses, a workshop and a cowshed. 

The furnaces installed in the buildings were larger than usual, so scientists believe that thousands of years ago the inhabitants of these places were actively engaged in blacksmithing. The most interesting fact is that the life of the people of this region was told in one of the medieval sagas, which bordered on fairy tales.

Kraken – one of the monsters of Scandinavian legends

Viking houses

An unusual place was described in the Ancient Origins edition. In the excavated houses, archaeologists managed to find the remains of large furnaces with cracked stones. Based on the finds, the researchers put forward the theory that the Vikings who lived in the Arnarfjordur Bay were engaged in the extraction of iron and the manufacture of various tools. 

Unfortunately, the remains of these tools have not yet been found by archaeologists. In the future, they plan to use flying drones to find land plots, under which the remains of thousand-year-old Viking buildings and tools made by them may also be hidden. Everything that they manage to find will help to study the historical sagas, which talk about the life of the Scandinavian peoples in the period from 930 to 1030.

Excavation in Arnarfjordur Bay

The first inhabitants of Iceland

One of these sagas is Landamabok, written in the XII century. It is considered the oldest written source ever discovered, detailing the early days of Iceland. This historical work will give a list of the first inhabitants of Iceland: there are about 3,000 names and about 1,400 place names. According to Landnamabok, one of the first settlers of a place called Svinadalur was a certain Eyvindur Audkula. 

In 1300 AD, the ruler of these lands was Bjarnason Auðkýlingur. The places described in this saga have many similarities with the aforementioned Arnarfjordur Bay. Most likely, this work tells about local residents.

Frame from the series “Vikings”

Scandinavian monsters

But if this work tells about real people and events, then where does the fairy tale? The fact is that the historical work also deals with sea monsters that were seen in Icelandic waters. It is noteworthy that not only the people who first settled in Iceland in 874 AD believed in mythical creatures. 

Our contemporaries allegedly see them from time to time. According to Ancient Origins, about 4,000 sightings of sea and lake monsters have been recorded in Iceland over the past hundred years. Moreover, about 180 monsters were met in the Arnarfjordur Bay.

The Nekki is another Scandinavian scum. Something between a mermaid and a mermaid

Rumor has it that some people have been able to see huge monsters like the Loch Ness monster, whose existence has recently been again talked about. Most likely, all of these messages are used to attract the attention of tourists. In the Icelandic village of Bildudalur, which is just located on the coast of Arnarfjordur, in early 2010, even the Sea Monster Museum was opened. 

All the exhibits presented in this institution tell about monsters from Scandinavian legends. In addition to viewing the exhibits, visitors can also listen to stories from fishermen. In general, Iceland is famous for its mystical component and tourists can learn a lot about magic, monsters and other evil spirits.

The excavations in Arnarfjordur Bay should ultimately help historians to separate fiction from real facts in historical documents. 

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Ancient

Sensational Findings About Nebra’s Celestial Disc: It is 1000 years younger than previously thought

Scientists from Germany have clarified the dating of one of the most famous and mysterious artifacts found in recent years. The Celestial Disc of Nebra, considered the oldest depiction of the cosmos, is younger than thought.

A new study of the celestial disk from Nebra, formerly considered the oldest depiction of space, has shown that it was made in the Iron Age, making it much younger. This is stated in a study published September 3 in the journal Archäologische Information and a summary of it appeared on the website of the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. Experts from the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich also took part in the study.

The Nebra Celestial Disc is one of the most significant archaeological finds in German history. In 2013, it was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. This artifact was discovered in 1999, and was found by “black diggers”. Presumably, it was found along with swords, axes and bracelets from the Bronze Age.

Photo: Hildegard Burri-Bayer / Goethe University Frankfurt am Main

Until now, it was believed that the celestial disk from Nebra dates back to the Early Bronze Age, created approximately in the years 2200-1600 BC. However, archaeologists from Goethe University Frankfurt and Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich re-analyzed the location and circumstances of the find. And they came to the conclusion that the disc must be dated to the Iron Age, which is about 800 – 50 BC.

The Celestial Disc from Nebra is one of the most significant archaeological finds in Germany and was included in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register in 2013. Searchers said it was discovered during illegal excavations in Germany in 1999, along with Bronze Age swords, axes and bracelets.

Therefore, many years of research have been aimed at verifying both the identity of the alleged find and the general origin of the objects, regardless of the vague information provided by black diggers.

As a result of new research, archaeologists concluded that the site, which until today was considered a find and which was investigated during subsequent excavations, with a high degree of probability is not the true place of the discovery of the celestial disk. In addition, there is no conclusive evidence that swords, axes and bracelets from the Bronze Age form a common ensemble.

According to archaeologists, this means that the disc should be examined and evaluated as a separate find. Therefore, since the celestial disc from Nebra does not correspond to the motives of the early Bronze Age and should be considered as an artifact of the Iron Age, the researchers say.

The Celestial Disc from Nebra was discovered in 2001 while trying to sell it on the black market for archaeological artefacts. The looters were detained, and the disc was handed over to the archaeological museum at the University of Halle.

Disc sellers said they found the disc in 1999 with a metal detector in the town of Nebra (Saxony-Anhalt, 60 km west of Leipzig). From the same burial, they extracted two bronze swords, two hatchets, a chisel, and fragments of spiral bracelets.

During excavations in Nebra, archaeologists did find traces of the presence of bronze. It also turned out that the soil from the excavation site is exactly the same as the traces of which were found on the disc.

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