Archaeological Treasure Trove Of Bones Found In Mexican Burial Site
August 8, 2012

Archaeological Treasure Trove Of Bones Found In Mexican Burial Site

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Archeologists working at a site in Mexico said they have found an unprecedented burial site where a young woman´s remains are surrounded by stacks of over 1,700 bones.

The site, which was located 15 feet below the surface of Mexico City´s Templo Mayor, dates back to the end of the 15th century, when Aztecs and their culture dominated the region. Throughout the history of civilization, elite rulers have been buried en masse with ancestors, family members, or sacrificial victims, however many experts believe the Aztecs did not practice this tradition.

Raúl Barrera from Mexico´s National Institute of History and Anthropology led the research team´s excavation effort that also uncovered a circular structure containing a ℠sacred tree trunk´ they said was possibly part of a ceremonial building.

Barrera said the tree was one of five such trunks that the Aztecs held up to the sky ceremoniously–but University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, who was not involved in the project, advised reporters that this object may have had slightly less significance.

"It seems to have been positioned there for a span of time, perhaps for a special ceremony or to create a particular vision of a sacred landscape, but then abandoned as uses of that limited sacred space changed over time," Gillespie wrote an email to the Associated Press.

She also said when the Mayas typically interred sacrifice victims with ceremonial burials, they were usually found as complete skeletons, not stacks of bones as was the case with this latest discovery. The discovery was also unusual in that the Aztecs, unlike other pre-Hispanic cultures, often cremated members of the elite during their rule from 1325 to 1521, when the Spanish conquistadors arrived.

The institute said ten craniums, seven adults and three children, were recovered among the bones and some sternum or vertebrae bones had marks that looked like intentional cuts. These markings could suggest where a ritual heart extraction took place, but because the bones were found separated, archeologists from the institute said it didn't seem likely the dead were sacrificed to accompany the burial.

The bones were also found sorted into piles with the skulls in one pile, femurs and other long bones in another grouping, and ribs in yet another.

Anthropologist Perla Ruiz, who was in charge of the physical excavation, said that might suggest the bones were disinterred from earlier burials and reburied with the woman, despite any precedent that Aztecs performed this type of activity.

Ruiz added that all the bones were sent to the Physical Anthropology Laboratory of the Great Temple Museum in Mexico, where an osteological analysis will be performed to establish aspects such as the exact number of individuals that made up the site, their genders and age, along with pathologies and marks that could determine what kind of lifestyle they lived.

Human sacrifice occurred quite regularly throughout the history of Aztec civilization. They believed these sacrifices would prevent the end of the world that could potentially happen every 52 years. In 1487, over 80,000 prisoners were sacrificed to re-consecrate the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan.