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Pictures: "Important" Aztec Child Burials Found in Mexico

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Gallitz
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« on: September 02, 2012, 09:17:49 pm »

Pictures: "Important" Aztec Child Burials Found in Mexico


Women and Children

Photograph from Cortesía/INAH/RML/AP

Physical anthropologist Jorge Arturo Talavera González examines 1 of 17 skeletons—including 11 child burials—unearthed recently in Mexico City. The remains, he said, offer evidence of a merchant neighborhood of an Aztec people known as the Tepanec, whose glory days were some 700 years ago.

Found with the remains of a newborn baby in her arms, the woman pictured above must have died after giving birth, said Talavera González, who is affiliated with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Further analysis is required to pin down causes of death for the 17 burials, but holes in some of the skulls hint at human sacrifice. Around the bodies, experts also found an altar, fragments of rooms, and various ceremonial objects.

Little is known about the Tepanec, for two reasons, said Arizona State University (ASU) anthropologist Michael Smith. First, they ruled oppressively another group called the Mexica, who eventually rose to power and "systematically wrote the Tepanec empire out of the history books."

Second, most Tepanec cities are located underneath Mexico City, making them difficult to investigate.

(Related pictures: "Unburying the Aztec.")

—Catherine Zuckerman

Published July 31, 2012


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/07/pictures/120731-aztec-burials-child-sacrifices-mexico-city-science/
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Gallitz
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2012, 09:19:14 pm »



Hybrid Corn Goddess

Photograph from Cortesía/INAH/RML/AP

In addition to graves, the excavation—which began two months ago in advance of the construction of a new apartment building—yielded objects that may speak to the religious beliefs of the little-known Tepanec. This figurine, explained Talavera González, is a combination of the goddess of rain and the goddess of corn.

The site is in an area called Azcapotzalco—in its day a rich and powerful capital and today a borough in northwestern Mexico City. According to INAH, the new findings indicate Azcapotzalco was also an elite Tepanec business district and a civil and ceremonial center.

(Also see "Aztec Math Decoded, Reveals Woes of Ancient Tax Time.")

Published July 31, 2012
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Gallitz
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« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2012, 09:19:48 pm »



Group Effort

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

Lead archaeologist Alejandra Jasso Pena (far left), surveys an array of objects from the ongoing excavation.

Among the artifacts are three cups, two of which would have been used to serve pulque, a slightly thick alcoholic beverage made from the agave plant. The purpose of the third, tripod-shaped cup, isn't evident, but Talavera González said all of the vessels were found bearing curious contents: the remains of burned human skulls.

(Related: "Untouched Tomb of Aztec King on Verge of Discovery?")

Published July 31, 2012
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Gallitz
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« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2012, 09:20:39 pm »




Leaving on a High Note

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

Musical instruments—like this flute found in the grave of a teenager—were possibly meant to accompany the dead into the afterlife.

The teenager's grave also held bowls, plates, an incense burner, and a clay mask. "These are all items of everyday life," said ASU's Smith, "mostly used in domestic rituals or household craft activities."

Still, he added, "any finds from Azcapotzalco or other Tepanec cities are important, because so few Aztec burials have ever been excavated.

(Related: "'Chilling' Child Sacrifices Found at Prehistoric Site.")
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Gallitz
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« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2012, 09:21:27 pm »



Final Resting Place

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

Archaeologists aren't sure why many skeletons, including the body pictured, were found in the fetal position. But Talavera González said the bodies would have had to have been arranged within three hours of dying, before stiffening could set in-a decision that suggests the Tepanec understood the physical process of rigor mortis.

Published July 31, 2012
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Gallitz
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« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2012, 09:22:18 pm »



About Face

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

Found in the grave of a teenage boy, a mask depicting the god of rain was surrounded by ceramic objects, a flute, cups, plates, bowls, and spindles.

According to Talavera González, many of the artifacts had been placed upside down in the burial, which he interprets as a symbolic nod to the ephemeral nature of life.

(Also see "'Dramatic' New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces.")
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Gallitz
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« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2012, 09:23:52 pm »



Not Alone

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

The skeleton of a child, 1 of 11 found buried at the Mexico City site, rests among grave offerings.

It isn't clear what killed these children, but it could have been illness, said Leonardo López Luján, senior archaeologist at the Museo del Templo Mayor—a museum tied to a large Aztec temple in Mexico City. (Read about the Templo Mayor excavation in National Geographic magazine.)

Possibly meant to accompany a child to the next life, the offerings included musical instruments, bowls, incense burners, and even animals.

At one grave the researchers found the remains of a dog, which, López Luján said was likely intended as a companion for the afterlife—possibly sacrificed to assist his or her master on the journey into the underworld.

Published July 31, 2012
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Gallitz
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« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2012, 09:24:24 pm »



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« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2012, 09:25:40 pm »



To Be Continued

Photograph by Alexandre Meneghini, AP

Plans to build an apartment complex remain on hold while archaeologists continue to excavate the site in Azcapotzalco—a project Talavera González describes as a "rare opportunity for study."

Further work may help unravel the mystery behind the burials—and shed light on a group of people whose history has largely been lost to the ages.

Published July 31, 2012
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« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2012, 09:25:59 pm »

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