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Aztecs’ offerings to Gods discovered in Mexico City reveal their beliefs and power

As Aztecs believed that the origin of the world was linked to the sea, marine organisms were treated as relics (Pic. Courtesy INAH)

Artefacts discovered from Mexico City are shedding light on religious rituals and statecraft of Aztecs, one of the leading Mesoamerican cultures that flourished in the region from 1300 to 1521. As per a report in aljazeera.com at the foot of a temple, the Templo Mayor site in the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan – one the Empire’s holiest shrine – are sealed stone boxes dating back to five centuries.

One box found at the middle of a ceremonial stage revealed sea offerings that included more than 165 red starfish and upwards of 180 corral branches in full.

This place of worship was as tall as a 15-storey building and it was brought down following Mexico’s conquest in 1521 by Spain. It was dedicated to the god of war and sun, Huitzilopochtli and the god of agriculture and rain, Tlaloc.  Each had a shrine at the top of the pyramid with separate staircases leading there.

Experts think that Aztec priests put these in the box on a raised platform during a grand event with spectators in thousands attending it with drums beating in attendance.

Leonardo Lopez Lujan, the lead archaeologist of Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History who is overseeing the digging at the site aptly described the possible spectacle as “pure imperial propaganda”.

Elaborating on the sea offerings, Báez Pérez an archaeologist told heritagedaily.com: “A good part of the Mesoamerican peoples believed that the origin of the world was linked to the sea, therefore, marine organisms were treated as relics. In the case of the Mexicas, their military power allowed them to bring thousands of marine objects and recreate an entire aquatic environment in Tenochtitlan itself.”

Earlier, the box also revealed a sacrificed jaguar which was dressed up like a warrior connected with Huitzilopochtli.  Last month the objects unearthed included a sacrificed eagle held in a jaguar’s clutches with miniature spears made of wood and a reed shield kept next to the big cat which is facing west. Copper bells were also there tied to the jaguar.

The rectangular box dating back to Emperor Ahuitzotl’s reign from 1486 to 1502 also shows a mysterious bulge in the middle which is located under the skeleton of jaguar. Talking about it, Lujan said: “Whatever is underneath the jaguar is something enormously important. We’re expecting a great discovery.”

Lujan feels that the contents of the box may also include an urn with Ahuitzotl’s cremated remains. This emperor was important as he expanded the Aztec Empire to today’s Guatemala and linked the Gulf coasts and Mexico’s Pacific.

A year’s digging is required to confirm this.

The objects discovered so far as per Joyce Marcus, an archaeologist at the University of Michigan specialising in ancient Mexico provide insights into the Aztec “worldview, ritual economy, and the obvious links between imperial expansion, warfare, military prowess and the ruler’s role” in ceremonies that sanctified conquests.