Natural disaster uncovers ancient temple hidden in Mexican pyramid

Lester Mason
July 13, 2018

Archaeologists discovered an ancient temple hidden inside a Mexican pyramid while scanning for any damage caused by the 7.1-magnitude natural disaster last September.

The temple is nestled inside the Teopanzolco pyramid in Morelos state, 70km south of Mexico City. It was assumed that the site dates back to the Late Postclassic period (1200 to 1521 CE).

The discovery was made when scientists from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History used a radar to check for structural damage to the Teopanzolco pyramid in Cuernavaca.

The 7.1-magnitude quake struck central Mexico on September 19, 2017, and killed 369 people.

"This discovery changes the chronology of Teopanzolco because an open-air basement was built first and then, in the image of this type of construction, the Templo Mayor [Main Temple] of Tenochtitlán was built", INAH archaeologist Bárbara Konieczna said.

To build temples on top of existing ones was a custom of the Mesoamerican people, she added.

The researchers were equally surprised to find out that the temple hints at the site being much older than previously thought.

'There was no news, until now, of the existence of a substructure within the pyramidal structure, ' said INAH Director Isabel Campos Goenaga at a press conference.

Teopanzolco is a popular site for visitors to the Ehecatl Temple, a building dedicated to the Aztecan deity associated with the wind.

"Despite what the quake meant, we have to be grateful that this natural phenomenon revealed this important structure, which changes the dating of this archaeological site", Goenaga said.

Pre-Hispanic cultures often built one temple over another.

The structure is dedicated to Tlaloc, the Aztec rain god.

Approximately two meters below the level of the floor that now has the top of the pyramid, the team found located the vestiges of the substructure, and found it was architecturally very similar to the current temple, marked in red on the right.

In addition, they claim that the structures built at Teopanzolco served as a source of inspiration for the inhabitants of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital that became Mexico City.

Barbara Koniecza, of the INAH, said: "The pyramid suffered considerable rearrangement of the core of its structure".

Scientists are working to restore the pyramid's main structure.

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