July 4, 2008

Sealed Cave May Hold Secrets to Mysterious Ancient Civilization

A cave buried beneath a Mexican pyramid has recently been re-opened by archeologists. The cavern, which has been sealed since its discovery in the 1970s, may hold clues to the mysterious collapse of one of ancient civilization's largest cities.

The Aztecs discovered the Teotihuacán pyramids around 1500 AD, just before Spanish explorers arrived to Mexico.  The pyramids, which rest about an hour outside Mexico City, are now a major tourist destination.

The civilization that built the large, ornate city and then burned and abandoned it around 700AD is shrouded in mystery.

The cave system, which is buried 20 feet beneath the Pyramid of the Sun, extends into a tunnel 295 feet long, and 8 feet high.

According to archeologists revisiting the cave, the new excavations could be key in unlocking new information about the sacred rituals of the civilization that built the city.  The Aztecs referred to the location as "The Place Where Men Become Gods" and believed it was a divine location.

"We think it had a ritual purpose. Offerings were placed at the very end of the tunnel as part of the pyramid's construction process," said Mexican archeologist Alejandro Sarabia.

"We want to find out why the Teotihuacán people sealed it and when."

Sarabia said the tunnel was closed soon after its uncovering in the early 1970s.  When the archeologist who discovered it died, a majority of the information about the location was lost.

According to archeologists, Teotihuacán rivaled the size of Rome in 500 AD with nearly 200,000 residents.

Now the 212-foot Pyramid of the Sun is surrounded by intruding slums overflowing from Mexico City, but still hosts crowds of tourists every spring who arrive to celebrate the spring equinox.