Tlatelolco (archaeological site)

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View of site from southwest corner

Tlatelolco is an archaeological excavation site in Mexico City, Mexico where remains of the pre-Columbian city-state of the same name have been found. It is centered on the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, a square surrounded on three sides by an excavated Aztec site, a seventeenth-century church called the Templo de Santiago, and the modern office complex formerly of the Mexican Foreign Ministry and since 2005 of the Centro Cultural Universitario of UNAM.[1]

The main temple of Tlatelolco, one of the excavated buildings recently saw the discovery of a pyramid inside the visible temple which is more than 700 years old. This indicates that the site is older than previously thought, according to Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (National Institute of Anthropology and History; INAH). Because it has design features similar to pyramids found in Tenayuca and Tenochtitlan, it may prove to be the first mixed Aztec and Tlatelolca construction found.[2]

Discovery of mass grave[edit]

On 10 February 2009, INAH archaeologists announced the discovery of a mass grave containing forty-nine human skeletons, laid out in neat lines on their backs, with their arms crossed and wrapped in maguey leaves.[3] The archaeologists located the skeletons in a 13-by-32-foot (four-by-10-meter) burial site as they took part in a search for a palace complex at the Tlatelolco site.[4]

The remains found include those of forty-five young adults, two children, a teenager, and an elderly person wearing a ring that potentially signifies a higher status.[4] Most of the young men were tall and several had broken bones that had healed, characteristics of warriors.[5] At least 50 further bodies are expected to be located in the future.[4] The grave contained both evidences of Aztec rituals such as offerings of incense and animal sacrifice, as well as Spanish elements such as buttons and a bit of glass.[5]

Salvador Guilliem, head of the site for the governmental archaeology institute, expressed his astonishment at the find: "We were completely taken by surprise. We didn't expect to find this massive funeral complex".[4] According to him, it was likely that the indigenous people buried in the grave died while fighting the invading Spanish or were killed by diseases, such as hemorrhagic fever epidemic, responsible for wiping out a large proportion of the native population in 1545 and 1576.[4] The site differs from most other Spanish conquest-era graves in the area, because of the manner in which the bodies were buried. The burial was similar to Christian customs of the time, as opposed to the thousands of graves found in other Aztec cities where bodies were thrown in without care.[4] Guilliem added: "It is a mass grave, but they were very carefully buried."[4] Susan Gillespie of the University of Florida suggested an alternative theory that the men could have been held prisoners by the Spanish for some time and executed later.[5]


  1. ^ See the relevant webpage of the Centro giving a survey of the history of the site (accessed 18 December 2013)
  2. ^ Quintanar Hinojosa, Beatriz (February 2008). "Breves". Guía México Desconocido: Oaxaca 372: 9. 
  3. ^ "Aztec 'warrior' mass grave found". BBC. 12 February 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Gutierrez, Miguel Angel (11 February 2009). "Mexico unearths mass grave from Spanish conquest". Reuters. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c Stevenson, Mark (12 February 2009). "Mexico mass grave may be Aztec resistance fighters". The Associated Press. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 19°27′3.9″N 99°08′15″W / 19.451083°N 99.13750°W / 19.451083; -99.13750