Category Archives: MEXICO

2,000-Year-Old Realistic Green Mask Found Nestled Inside an Ancient Pyramid

2,000-Year-Old Realistic Green Mask Found Nestled Inside an Ancient Pyramid

Mexico has many remarkable archaeological sites that provide insight into its pre-Columbian history. Among the most impressive structures is the Pyramid of the Sun, which continues to reveal amazing discoveries.

Built approximately in 100 CE, this pyramid is the largest structure in Teotihuacan and has been under continuous research by archaeologists.

Although few artifacts have been unearthed on-site, in 2011,researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) made a surprising discovery using a 380-foot-long tunnel excavated by archaeologists in the 1930s.

By using the tunnel, the team was able to reach the mother-rock level. Upon arrival, they discovered a valuable assortment of artifacts, such as fragments of clay pottery, animal bones, obsidian pieces, three serpentine human figurines, and a remarkable “Green” serpentine mask. The green mask holds significant interest as, during its unearthing, it was the sole mask of its type discovered in a ritual context in Teotihuacan.

According to a statement by INAH, the discovery comprises 11 ceremonial clay pots dedicated to a rain god resembling Tlaloc. The findings also included animal bones, such as rabbits fed to eagles, and feline and canine remain yet to be identified.

These offerings were placed on a rubble base where the temple was built around 50 AD. It is noteworthy that Tlaloc was still revered in the region even after 1,500 years.

These offerings were believed to be deposited as part of a ritual to inaugurate the pyramid’s construction, which explains their location at the lower level. The discovery of this mask was particularly noteworthy because it depicted a human face with remarkable accuracy and simplicity.

This is significant due to the importance of masks in indigenous people’s religious practices. The Aztecs, in particular, were a culture that placed great value on masks, as noted by renowned anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss.

There are numerous types of masks, both intended for wear and crafted as miniature versions, possibly for use as amulets. With a history of mask-making in the region spanning millennia, ranging from rudimentary pottery to intricate art pieces, the diversity of masks would have been remarkable, given their various shapes and forms.

Unfortunately, only a limited number of masks have been discovered despite the estimated abundance of them, but the depictions of masks throughout history strongly suggest that many more existed over the centuries.

The Pyramid of the Sun, known today as the world’s third-largest pyramid, was named by the Aztecs who visited Teotihuacan centuries after its abandonment. The original name of the pyramid remains a mystery.

Teotihuacan was once a flourishing city known as the City of the Gods, with a population of 200,000 at its peak. However, researchers have yet to learn about the people who inhabited this city and why they disappeared.

In the Aztec culture, masks played an essential role in religious ceremonies as they were meant to represent one of their many gods. The Aztecs were known for their artistic skills and colorful masks.

However, the few masks discovered so far had strong symbolism, such as animal features or distorted proportions compared to humans.

Some scholars suggest that individuals did not wear masks during their duties. Instead, they were placed on holders or over a skull, sent as tokens to other rulers and chiefs, or used as death masks.

This might explain why some masks were not carved out to allow the wearer to see. Despite this, most of the masks showed some elaboration or alteration of the human figure.

Masks have played a central role in the religion and rituals of Mesoamerican civilizations for millennia. Therefore, finding a mask resembling a buried person is unique.

New archaeological findings in the future may shed more light on this discovery, the site at large, and the beautiful Mesoamerican cultures.

Sitting to the north-east of Mexico City, Teotihuacan is one of Mexico‘s most visited ancient architectural sites.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has been researching to uncover more information about the ancient civilization of Teotihuacán.

One of the recent discoveries made by INAH was an underground tunnel found beneath the Pyramid of the Moon. The use of electrical resistance technology enabled the mapping of the tunnel without the need for ground excavation.

The tunnel leads to an underground chamber, preceded by a chamber measuring 49 feet in diameter. This newly discovered chamber may hold more treasures. The accumulation of these findings will hopefully provide more insight into the civilization of Teotihuacán and reveal more information about its decline.

Verónica Ortega, the director of the Integral Conservation Project for the Plaza of the Moon, explains that the large offering complexes constitute the sacred heart of Teotihuacan, making it a mecca for civilization.

The discoveries made within these complexes can help to unravel the relationship that the ancient metropolis had with other regions of Mesoamerica.

Archaeologists Found More Than 200-year-old Shipwreck In Mexico’s Caribbean

Archaeologists Found More Than 200-year-old Shipwreck In Mexico’s Caribbean

A fisherman discovered a coral-coated shipwreck off the coast of Mexico that has laid hidden beneath the surface for over 200 years.

Archaeologists Find a More Than 200-year-old Shipwreck

The wreck is named after Manuel Polanco, the man who discovered it, and sits in a watery grave just 21 miles from Majahual on Mexico’s Caribbean coast.

Archaeologists dated the wooden remains to the 18th or 19th century and although it is degraded, metal parts, iron ingots, the anchor and an eight-foot cannon are still intact.

The team believes the vessel sank after hitting the Chinchorro Bank, which was known for centuries as ‘ Nightmare reef ‘ or ‘Sleep-robbing reef’ due to the dangers it posed to sailors.

Researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found the shipwreck after receiving a tip from Polanco who spotted it while diving in the waters.

‘The fishermen are the ones who know Chinchorro best since they navigate it daily to earn their living, diving the Caribbean waters to find fish, lobsters or conch, that they sell in Mahahual or Xcalak, and often they happen to find submerged archaeological contexts,’ INAH shared in a press release.

‘Manuel Polanco is an example of this, because although he is now retired from diving, in the ’60s and ’70s, he found the remains of various shipwrecks, including two of the most iconic in Banco Chinchorro: ’40 Cañones’ and ‘The Angel’.’

Underwater archaeologists said the currents where the cannon was found were strong

Polanco alerted archaeologists about the wreck in the 1990s, but experts have only made the first dives to inspect it in the past two months.

Unfortunately, Polanco is now in his golden years and was unable to accompany the researchers to inspect the wooden remains.

When the team dove to the depths where the ship laid, they found the organic material had degraded over the centuries.

Laura Carrillo Márquez, SAS researcher and head of the Banco Chinchorro Project, said: ‘It lies directly on the reef barrier where the ocean current is strong.’ ‘Only the solid elements remain, encrusted into the reef.’

She noted all that remained were the pig iron ingots that were used as ballast, some tubes, a cannon approximately eight feet long and an anchor.

Because the anchor was ‘active’, Márquez believes that the crew saw the reef up ahead and hoped to slow down the boat before crashing.

The anchor was found in shallow waters at Banco Chinchorro

However, the anchor was unable to stop the vessel and it collided with the ‘Nightmare reef.’

‘Although some of the vestiges seem to indicate a British affiliation, the INAH researcher clarifies that this hypothesis must be yet corroborated or discarded, through analyses that will be meticulously done, taking care of the natural environment of the site,’ Márquez explained.

A cemetery discovered in Mexico City illustrates evolving burial practises

A cemetery discovered in Mexico City illustrates evolving burial practises

INAH experts recovered the skeletal remains of 21 individuals during the construction of the so-called “Pavellón Escénico“, in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City.

A cemetery from the early viceregal period (1521-1620 AD) was found in the area where the Chapultepec Forest Garden and “Pabellón Escénico” (Scenic Pavilion) are being built, reports the Ministry of Culture.

Experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), through the Directorate of Archaeological Rescue (DSA), made the discovery in the area known as ecological parking.

In the text, the coordinator of the DSA, María de Lourdes López Camacho, explains that during the monitoring of the works as part of the Chapultepec Project, the INAH dug a two-by-two-meter test pit, and “human skeletal remains were detected from 1.37 meters deep.

Apparently, the remains would be from two different populations.

With the field assistance of archaeologists Blanca Copto Gutiérrez and Alixbeth Daniela Aburto Pérez, “it was decided to double the excavation.

In the last three weeks, the team recovered the bones – in various states of conservation – of 21 individuals, mostly female and male adults, including a couple of infants”, adds the archaeologist.

It details that the burials were carried out directly in the ground and at three different moments during the first century after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan. 

“Despite the fact that most of the burials presented the same west-east orientation, which alludes to the belief in the resurrection in the Christian faith, their arrangement suggests two types of population: one of indigenous origin, probably Mexica, and another European”.

According to the studies, it is a collective burial.

The archaeologist explains that for the most part, “individuals were placed outstretched with their arms crossed over their chests or in the pelvic region, as indicated by the Catholic funeral rite; However, two were buried in a flexed and lateral way, in the Mesoamerican style, not to mention that another couple of individuals were buried carrying a seal and a green obsidian blade, both pre-Hispanic”.

According to their studies, it is a collective burial that corresponds to an early viceroyalty cemetery, “because it shows the transition from pre-Hispanic funeral customs to those implemented with the arrival of the Spaniards and their religious system.”

The report adds that “according to the coordinator of the DSA Bioarchaeology Section, Jorge Arturo Talavera González, who made a first osteological report -which will be complemented with other analyses, including DNA-, the epigenetic traits of certain individuals indicate the presence of two different populations in that context, the Amerindian individuals being identifiable by their spade-shaped teeth .”

Regarding health conditions, the document concludes, “preliminary observations indicate that the people buried suffered, among other conditions, hypoplasia, attrition and dental calculus (wear of enamel and dental structure, as well as tartar), inflammation of the periosteum ( fibrous sheath that covers the bones) and other infectious processes, as well as diseases related to the nutritional deficit”.

A woman discovered the mummies in her garage in 1980 while cleaning

A woman discovered the mummies in her garage in 1980 while cleaning

In 1966, two California teenagers became fascinated with Mummies and Archaeology. They wanted to make a find for themselves and had heard that the prehistoric tribes of northern Mexico had a tradition of burying their dead in caves.

Near Sunny San Diego, the small area known as Lemon Grove is famous for its Giant Lemon, a sight to behold for all roadside novelty-seekers. Also, mummies. 

What do you do when your earnest search for a mummy actually yields one? What if it yields two? If you are the two teenage boys who managed to find this treasure trove of mummification, you panic and hide them in a garage. 

In 1966, two California boys went to Chihuahua, Mexico in search of mummies.

Quite the mummy fanatics, they knew Indian tribes had once brought their dead to the cool, dry caves near Chihuahua, and considered the area prime hunting grounds for a mummy of their very own.

The mummies were found in a cave in Chihuahua, Mexico

For over a month, they peeked into every nook and cranny of the caves until their tenacity finally paid off – the boys not only found a coveted mummy, they found two.

The boys gazed at their prizes, the mummified remains of a teenage girl, as well as the tinier corpse of a one-year-old. Despite their determination to find them, they were now faced with the reality of having them.

They couldn’t exactly carry the bodies out of the country in backpacks, and the gravity of their mothers finding out began to become a very worrisome, previously overlooked issue.

So the boys did what any secret-keeping teen would-they smuggled the bodies over the border, and convinced a friend to hide them in her garage. 

The mummy of Lemon Grove Girl, San Diego Museum of Man

With no real endgame in sight, the boys left their macabre finds in this safe location-safe that is until their friend’s mother decided that it was tie to do some spring cleaning. 14 years after being stashed away behind the garden tools and moving boxes, the girls were found.

The woman who found them was understandably shaken and naturally assumed that some sort of murder had taken place. Stolen mummies stashed there by neighbour kids isn’t exactly the first place the mind goes.

The police recognized immediately that the bodies were not likely to be murder victims, but could not figure out how the two ancient cadavers found their way into this suburban family garage-the teen is thought to have died between  A.D. 1040 and 1260.

While they investigated, the mummies were delivered to the San Diego Museum of Man for safekeeping. 

Fondly nicknamed “The Lemon Grove Girl”, the teenage mummy and her infant companion were stashed away until rightful ownership could be sorted.

Eventually, the police caught up with the boys, who were now grown men of course, and asked for an explanation. The men told their story, and in an ever so generous act of contrition offered to donate their mummies to the Museum of Man. 

The officials, eyes rolling, informed the men that due to their juvenile status when the crime was committed and the time that had passed, they were lucky that no charges would be pressed, and thanked them for the charitable offer, but the mummies were not theirs to give.

The museum however was very keen on becoming the keeper of the girls, and after being granted permission by the Mexican government to retain them, including the Lemon Grove Girl in their gorgeous Ancient Egypt and Mummies exhibit.

Ancient Mayan skeletons dating back 7,000 years discovered in Mexican cave

Ancient Mayan skeletons dating back 7,000 years discovered in Mexican cave

Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered the ruins of the Maya ancient civilization, which date back 7,000 years and provide further insight into their enigmatic everyday lives.

According to experts, the age of the bones discovered corresponds to a period when humans transitioned from hunters to sedentary lifestyles.

In the Tacotalpa municipality of Tabasco state in southern Mexico, three Maya skeletons were discovered in the Puyil cave.

Experts have calculated that one is up to 7,000 years old, while the remaining two dates back around 4,000 years.

Archaeologist Alberto Martos said: “Seven thousand years old is what we’ve just placed it, which is the period of transition from being hunters to sedentarism.

“There were different groups during this time that used the caves, clearly it wasn’t a domestic cave.

“In prehistoric times it was probably used for rituals and cemeteries so as to dispose of remains of people. “For the Maya, it was a cave of ancestors.

“This cave was used by the Maya, they respected the remains that were already there and left their own remains inside.”

Earlier this month, scientists claimed an enormous drought that swept across Mexico around 1,000 years ago triggered the demise of the Mayas.

Those studying the climate at the time of the ancient civilization found rainfall fell by up to 70 percent at the time the region’s city-states were abandoned.

Nick Evans, a Ph.D. student at the University of Cambridge, was part of a team of international researchers that was able to calculate the conditions on the Yucatan Peninsula at the time of the decline using sediment samples from a local lake.

He said: “The role of climate change in the collapse of Classic Maya civilization is somewhat controversial, partly because previous records are limited to qualitative reconstructions, for example, whether conditions were wetter or drier.

“Our study represents a substantial advance as it provides statistically robust estimates of rainfall and humidity levels during the Maya downfall.”

The Maya civilization was noted for its hieroglyphic script – the only known fully developed writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas.

As one of the most dominant civilizations in Mesoamerica, they built cities with elaborate ceremonial buildings and huge stone pyramids to form large parts of Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

They also made advances in agriculture, calendar-making, and mathematics, reaching their peak at around the sixth century AD.

According to archaeologists at a Mexico City news conference, three sets of human remains were unearthed at the Puyil cave located in the Tacotalpa municipality

It is thought the Mayas Skeletons invented the concept of ‘zero’.

This allowed them to work out complex calculations and create detailed and accurate calendars.

But by 900AD, their stone cities were deserted, creating much mystery around the reasons for their demise.

In addition to the drought that swept across Mexico, other theories for their demise have included overpopulation, military conflict, or a major environmental event.

Fossilized Footprints Found in New Mexico Track Traveler With Toddler in Tow

Fossilized Footprints Found in New Mexico Track Traveler With Toddler in Tow

A small woman—or perhaps an adolescent boy—walks quickly across a landscape where giant beasts roam. The person holds a toddler on their hip, and their feet slip in the mud as they hurry along for nearly a mile, perhaps delivering the child to a safe destination before returning home alone.

The footprints found at White Sands National Park are more than 10,000 years old.

Despite the fact that this journey took place more than 10,000 years ago, a new paper published in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews manages to sketch out what it might have looked and felt like in remarkable detail.

Evidence of the journey comes from fossilized footprints and other evidence discovered in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park in 2018, reports Albuquerque TV station KRQE.

Toward the end of the late Pleistocene epoch—between 11,550 and 13,000 years ago—humans and animals left hundreds of thousands of tracks in the mud along the shore of what was once Lake Otero.

The new paper investigates one specific set of tracks, noting details in the footprints’ shapes that reveal how the traveler’s weight shifted as they moved the child from one hip to the other.

“We can see the evidence of the carry in the shape of the tracks,” write study co-authors Matthew Robert Bennett and Sally Christine Reynolds, both of Bournemouth University in England, for the Conversation.

“They are broader due to the load, more varied in morphology often with a characteristic ‘banana shape’–something that is caused by outward rotation of the foot.”

At some points along the journey, the toddler’s footprints appear as well, most likely because the walker set the child down to rest or adjust their position. For most of the trip, the older caretaker carried the child at a speed of around 3.8 miles per hour—an impressive pace considering the muddy conditions.

“Each track tells a story: a slip here, a stretch there to avoid a puddle,” explain Bennett and Reynolds. “The ground was wet and slick with mud and they were walking at speed, which would have been exhausting.”

In this artist’s depiction, a prehistoric woman holding a child leaves footprints in the mud.

On the return trip, the adult or adolescent followed the same course in reverse, this time without the child. The researchers theorize that this reflects a social network in which the person knew that they were carrying the child to a safe destination.

“Was the child sick?” they ask. “Or was it being returned to its mother? Did a rainstorm quickly come in catching a mother and child off guard? We have no way of knowing and it is easy to give way to speculation for which we have little evidence.”

The fossilized footprints show that at least two large animals crossed the human tracks between the outbound and return trips. Prints left by a sloth suggest the animal was aware of the humans who had passed the same way before it.

As the sloth approached the trackway, it reared up on its hind legs to sniff for danger before moving forward. A mammoth who also walked across the tracks, meanwhile, shows no sign of having noticed the humans’ presence.

White Sands National Park contains the largest collection of Ice Age human and animal tracks in the world. As Alamogordo Daily News reports, scientists first found fossilized footprints at the park more than 60 years ago. But researchers only started examining the tracks intensively in the past decade, when the threat of erosion became readily apparent.

The international team of scientists behind the new paper has found evidence of numerous kinds of human and animal activity. Tracks testify to children playing in puddles formed by giant sloth tracks and jumping between mammoth tracks, as well as offering signs of human hunting practices.

Researchers and National Park Service officials say the newest findings are remarkable partly for the way they allow modern humans to relate to their ancient forebears.

“I am so pleased to highlight this wonderful story that crosses millennia,” says Marie Sauter, superintendent of White Sands National Park, in a statement. “Seeing a child’s footprints thousands of years old reminds us why taking care of these special places is so important.”

Oldest And Largest Pre-Maya Sacred Site Discovered In Mexico

Oldest And Largest Pre-Maya Sacred Site Discovered In Mexico

The largest and oldest monumental pre-Maya structure has been identified in Mexico revealing an ancient culture that thrived without a centralized government or elite classes.

A team of archaeologists conducting airborne LIDAR surveys in Tabasco, Mexico, created a high resolution 3D map of “Aguada Fénix,” thought of as being no more than a natural rise in the landscape, but they revealed a massive elevated ancient platform.

Measuring 4,635 feet (1,413 meters) north to south and 1,310 feet (399 meters) on its east to west axis, the ritual site is raised 32-50 feet (10-15 meters) above the surrounding area and the scans also plotted no less than nine sacred causeways extending from the structure.

And perhaps equally, if not more provocative than the structure itself is that the archaeologists didn’t find a single jot of evidence of any social elites or central government controlling the construction project.

Aerial view of Aguada Fénix. Causeways and reservoirs in front and the Main Plateau in the back.

Dating The Gargantuan Sacred Site

This incredible discovery is detailed a new science paper published in the journal Nature, by lead author Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona , who speaks with Ancient Origins later in this article.

Professor Inomata’s team of researchers radiocarbon dated 69 charcoal samples and determined that the earliest deposits at Aguada Fénix dated to around 750 BC and it was also discovered that people of this region began using ceramics by 1200 BC, which is almost two centuries earlier than ceramic use at comparative sites, like for example, “Ceibal, Tikal, Cahal, Pech, Cuello and other Maya communities,” according to the paper.

The ceramics found at Aguada Fénix resemble the Real ceramics from Ceibal and they are markedly different from those of the La Venta or the Grijalva River region, and while it is still unknown if the builders of Aguada Fénix spoke the Mayan language, the researchers say they appear to have had “closer cultural affinities with the Maya lowlands than with the Olmec area”.

Altar Olmec, La Venta region in Tabasco, Mexico.

A Vast And Deeply Ancient Sacred Platform

Artificial plateaus, or platforms, are horizontally expansive monumental structures where agri-rituals were performed in accordance with the annual cycles of the Sun, Moon and stars, thus, they doubled as astronomical observatories for taking measurements from a fixed base.

Aligned with the cardinal points of the compass, and generally associated with Earth and fertility deities, platforms contrast with vertically aligned structures like standing stones and pyramids which focus on the sky and its deities.

Construction of this newly discovered ceremonial platform was conducted over a natural rise of bedrock in an ambitious project that began around 1000 BC and ceased soon after 800 BC, which the paper explains is before the initial construction of the ceremonial complex at Ceibal.

3D image of the site of Aguada Fénix based on LIDAR.

Auger tests were conducted in the main and west plateaus at Aguada Fénix which allowed the researchers to estimate construction volumes, which for the main plateau was “3,499,563–4,702,537 yards (3,200,000–4,300,000 meters)” requiring “10,000,000–13,000,000 person-days”.

In conclusion the researchers say the various radiocarbon dating results lead them to estimate the structure had been built between 1000 and 800 BC, which makes it the “ oldest monumental structure found in the Maya area so far”.

All Change, As Historical Assumptions Collapse

These new discoveries have tipped everything on its head, as until today, archaeologists had incorrectly thought that the Maya civilization had emerged from small villages during the Middle Pre-classic period (1000–350 BC), but the discovery of Aguada Fénix directly challenges this now old school model.

And what is perhaps most surprising is that the research at Aguada Fénix found “no clear indicators of marked social inequality, such as sculptures of high-status individuals” leading the archaeologists to conclude that ceremonial complexes such as Aguada Fénix, “suggest the importance of communal work in the initial development of the Maya civilization”.

The main ritual stage, or platform, at Aguada Fénix, is the largest construction in the pre-Hispanic Maya area and while the volume of the plateau at the Olmec site, San Lorenzo is larger, Aguada Fénix represents the largest construction effort during the Middle Pre-classic and Late–Terminal Pre-classic periods.

And if the archaeologists interpretations are correct, the implication is that the Gulf Coast Olmec region was not the only center of rapid cultural development and that cultural and technological innovations, like architecture and building, didn’t always cone from the top, elites, downwards.

The Inside Story With Professor Takeshi Inomata

Several big questions arise from this new study and perhaps the most pressing is what inspired a group of hunters to all of a sudden build one of the largest religious structures in the region’s history? Seeking answers, I contacted lead author Takeshi Inomata, who explained that between 1000-1200 BC most people in the Maya area relied heavily on hunting and fishing along with a small-scale maize cultivation, and that they did not use ceramics.

Around 1000 BC they started to use ceramics and began developing sedentary settlements and the professor thinks that as the people increased their maize agriculture they had to “negotiate new concepts of use or owner rights of lands and properties”.

And it was at this moment that the large collaborative construction project gave a new group identity to an emerging agricultural community being “a monument for everybody” compared with later large Maya buildings used mainly by rulers and elites.

My second question to the scientist related to his not finding any evidence of social elites, and if this was the case, who then organized the workers and controlled selection and assembly of building materials, transportation of materials to the site, feeding and clothing the builders, and who said “put that stone there, and not there”?

Maya stela representing a 6 th century king.

Dr. Takeshi said in an email to Ancient Origins that traditionally archaeologists thought that “communities developed social inequality, and then elite, rulers, or other powerful people organize large construction projects”. But contrary to this, all evidence gathered at Aguada Fénix shows that the large construction was done “in the absence of powerful elite”.

While leaders would have played central roles in planning and organizing such work, the main factor was people ’s voluntary participation in the construction which tells us “the potential of human collaboration which does not necessarily require a centralized government”. However, such a construction project possibly promoted the centralization of government and social hierarchy.



A team from CINDAQ had been exploring a cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, navigating several kilometres of underwater passages when they came across features within the subterranean landscape that had been unnaturally altered.

They conducted nearly 100 expeditions and collected samples, captured more than 20,000 photographs and gathered hours of 360-degree video footage to enable researchers to study the unnatural formations and archaeological remains in situ.

The CINDAQ divers brought the discovery to the attention of Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) as well as the experts from academia to fully understand its significance.

Researchers have determined that the cave system was inhabited from between 12,000-10,000 years ago, predating the rise of Maya culture and was occupied for around 2,000 years.

During this period, the cave was mined for ochre, a natural clay earth pigment which is a mixture of ferric oxide and varying amounts of clay and sand often used in rock paintings, mortuary practices, painted objects, and for personal adornment.

Hammerstone Tool

Remains of ochre extraction beds and pits have been identified, along with digging tools, navigational markers, and fire pits. In some parts of the cave complex, the cave ceiling is still visibly blackened by what appears to be soot caused by small fires.

Eduard Reinhardt from the School Of Geography & Earth Sciences at McMaster University said: “Most evidence of ancient mining on the surface has been altered through natural and human processes, obscuring the record.

These underwater caves are a time capsule. With all the tools left as they were 10,000 – 12,000 years ago, it represents a unique learning opportunity. It took advanced expertise to work in the caves recovering ochre, so we know it was very valuable for the earliest peoples of the Americas.”

Navigation Marker

Brandi MacDonald from the Archaeometry Laboratory at the University of Missouri said: “What is remarkable is not only the preservation of the mining activity, but also the age and duration of it.

We rarely, if ever, get to observe such clear evidence of ochre pigment mining of Paleoindian age in North America, so to get to explore and interpret this is an incredible opportunity for us. Our study reinforces the notion that ochre has long been an important material throughout human history.”


Archaeologists Discover Ancient Ochre Mine That Unlocks The Lives Of Early AMERICANS

The underwater caves along Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula contain within them a sprawling labyrinth of archaeological relics perhaps unlike anywhere else on Earth.

Preserved in a vast network of flooded caverns, these inundated cenotes hold a treasure trove of Maya secrets – but as a new discovery shows, you can also find ancient artefacts dating back to much more distant episodes of prehistory.

In a new study, researchers report the finding of what could be the oldest known mine in the Americas (alongside other claims to the title), uncovering the remains of a subterranean ochre mine dating back to 12,000 years ago.

“The underwater caves are like a time capsule,” says expert diver and micropalaeontologist Ed Reinhardt from McMaster University in Canada.

“There is clear evidence of ochre mining which would have taken place thousands of years ago.”

In dives during 2022, Reinhardt and fellow researchers explored caves along the eastern coastline of Quintana Roo. Caves in this region have long been known to contain the skeletal remains of ancient peoples who inhabited the caverns thousands of years ago, back when lower sea levels meant the caves were dry and accessible.

As to why ancient individuals would enter these deep and dangerous labyrinthine passages has remained unclear, but now we appear to have an explanation.

“The cave’s landscape has been noticeably altered, which leads us to believe that prehistoric humans extracted tonnes of ochre from it, maybe having to light fire pits to illuminate the space,” says diver and archaeologist Fred Devos from the Research Centre of the Quintana Roo Aquifer System (CINDAQ) in Mexico.

Inside the caves, the team found a range of evidence of prehistoric mining activities, including digging tools, ochre extraction beds, navigational markers, and ancient fireplaces.

The researchers suggest mining evidence in three submerged cave systems spans about 2,000 years of operation – from 12,000 to 10,000 years ago.

The sites, called La Mina, Camilo Mina, and Monkey Dust, may be the oldest known examples of ochre mining in the Americas, but the team thinks cave exploration and ochre mining in the region may date back even further, based on other skeletal evidence dated to 12,800 years ago.

For some reason, the miners in this site stopped their ochre extraction about 10,000 years ago. As to why, the researchers are unsure, as the cave would still have been accessible at that point.

It’s possible, they say, that the miners moved on to other deposits in other caves – and with 2,000 kilometres of known cave systems to explore in the region, we might find more evidence of this ancient mining in the future.

What is certain is that it must have taken unimaginable bravery to delve for hundreds of metres into these jagged caves, with only a lit torch to shine a path in the buried darkness.

That they ventured into the dark like this in such conditions tells us something about how important the ochre pigment must have been in ancient Palaeoindian rituals and customs, that they were willing to risk their lives for their prize.

“Imagine a flickering light, in the middle of deep darkness,” says team member James Chatters from Applied Paleoscience in Washington State, “that at once illuminates the red-stained hands of the miners as they strike the ground with hammers made out of stalagmites, while it lights the way for those who carry the ochre through the tunnels until they reach sunlight and the forest floor.”

A 500-Year-Old Aztec Tower of Human Skulls Is Even More Terrifyingly Humongous Than Previously Thought, Archaeologists Find

A 500-Year-Old Aztec Tower of Human Skulls Is Even More Terrifyingly Humongous Than Previously Thought, Archaeologists Find

The bones likely belong to people sacrificed during the reign of Ahuízotl, eighth king of the Aztecs.

Archaeologists excavating a famed Aztec “tower of skulls” in Mexico City have uncovered a new section featuring 119 human skulls. The find brings the total number of skulls featured in the late 15th-century structure, known as Huey Tzompantli, to more than 600, reports Hollie Silverman for CNN.

The tower, first discovered five years ago by archaeologists with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), is believed to be one of seven that once stood in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán. It’s located near the ruins of the Templo Mayor, a 14th- and 15th-century religious center dedicated to the war god Huitzilopochtli and the rain god Tlaloc.

Found in the eastern section of the tower, the new skulls include at least three children’s craniums. Archaeologists identified the remains based on their size and the development of their teeth.

Researchers had previously thought that the skulls in the structure belonged to defeated male warriors, but recent analysis suggests that some belonged to women and children, as Reuters reported in 2022.

“Although we cannot determine how many of these individuals were warriors, perhaps some were captives destined for sacrificial ceremonies,” says archaeologist Barrera Rodríguez in an INAH statement. “We do know that they were all made sacred, that is, they were turned into gifts for the gods or even personifications of the deities themselves, for which they were dressed and treated as such.”

As J. Weston Phippen wrote for the Atlantic in 2022, the Aztecs displayed victims’ skulls in smaller racks around Tenochtitlán before transferring them to the larger Huey Tzompantli structure. Bonded together with lime, the bones were organized into a “large inner-circle that raise[d] and widen[ed] in a succession of rings.”

The dead included men, women and children alike.
Archaeologists first discovered the skull tower in 2022.
A tzompantli appears on the right of this drawing from Juan de Tovar’s 1587 manuscript, the Ramírez Codex

While the tower may seem grisly to modern eyes, INAH notes that Mesoamericans viewed the ritual sacrifice that produced it as a means of keeping the gods alive and preventing the destruction of the universe.

“This vision, incomprehensible to our belief system, makes the Huey Tzompantli a building of life rather than death,” the statement says.

Archaeologists say the tower—which measures approximately 16.4 feet in diameter—was built in three stages, likely dating to the time of the Tlatoani Ahuízotl government, between 1486 and 1502.

Ahuízotl, the eighth king of the Aztecs, led the empire in conquering parts of modern-day Guatemala, as well as areas along the Gulf of Mexico. During his reign, the Aztecs’ territory reached its largest size yet, with Tenochtitlán also growing significantly. Ahuízotl built the great temple of Malinalco, added a new aqueduct to serve the city and instituted a strong bureaucracy.

describe the sacrifice of as many as 20,000 prisoners of war during the dedication of the new temple in 1487, though that number is disputed.

Spanish conquistadors Hernán Cortés, Bernal Díaz del Castillo and Andrés de Tapia described the Aztecs’ skull racks in writings about their conquest of the region.

As J. Francisco De Anda Corral reported for El Economista in 2022, de Tapia said the Aztecs placed tens of thousands of skulls “on a very large theater made of lime and stone, and on the steps of it were many heads of the dead stuck in the lime with the teeth facing outward.”

Per the statement, Spanish invaders and their Indigenous allies destroyed parts of the towers when they occupied Tenochtitlán in the 1500s, scattering the structures’ fragments across the area.

Researchers first discovered the macabre monument in 2015, when they were restoring a building constructed on the site of the Aztec capital, according to BBC News.

The cylindrical rack of skulls is located near the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built over the ruins of the Templo Mayor between the 16th and 19th centuries.

“At every step, the Templo Mayor continues to surprise us,” says Mexican Culture Minister Alejandra Frausto in the statement. “The Huey Tzompantli is, without a doubt, one of the most impressive archaeological finds in our country in recent years.”