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Friday, July 16, 2010

The Aztec Centre of the Universe

The cathedral from the Templo Mayor site

Two postings back, we blogged the Zapotec site of Monte Alban overlooking Oaxaca City, so here is a complementary blog on the Aztec Site in the Centre of Mexico City.

Situated right in the city centre just off the Zocalo is the Templo Mayor - the ruins of the original Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, including the Teocalli complex right at the centre of the Aztec universe, later vanquished and overbuilt by the conquistadors to form the centre of Mexico City around the Zocalo and cathedral.

A panorama of the site

It wasn't until 1978 when electricity workers happened on an 8 ton stone disc carving of the Aztec goddess Coyolxauhqui, the decision was made to demolish the colonial buildings standing over what is now believed to be the exact spot where the Aztecs saw their symbolic eagle perched on a cactus with a snake in his beak - the symbol of Mexico today - forming the absolute centre of the Aztec universe.

A model of the original island city in the middle of a now drained lake.

The temple has gone through several stages of reconstruction and enlargement, each accompanied by the sacrifice of captured warriors. In the centre is a sacrificial stone in front of a shrine to Huizilopochtli the Aztec war god and son of Coyolxauhqui who had dismembered her and killed his own brother in achieving total dominance.

Motifs and statues from the temples

Tlaloc the rain god

Temple of the stone skulls

Left the stone representation of dismembered Coyolxauhqui. Right another large stone.

The associated museum gives a scintillating portrayal of many of the artifacts found on this and related sites, from terracotta figurines to beaten gold and jade ornaments as well as a good account of the excavation.

Delicate Aztec flutes

Image of excavation efforts

Aztec textiles

Panorama mural of the conquest of Tenochtitlan (click to enlarge)

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