Aztec Carvings Tell the Story of a Cosmic Battle_Featured_, Archaeology Monday, February 20th, 2012
A total of 23 pre-Columbian stone plaques dating back over 550 years were discovered by archaeologists in front of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan in Mexico City, with carvings illustrating Aztec myths including the birth of the god of war Huitzilopochtli.
The sculpted images are carved on slabs of tezontle (a volcanic rock) and feature depictions of serpents, captives and warriors. They also feature other figures relating to the mythological origins of Aztec civilization.
The stone carvings focus on the myths of Huitzilopochtli’s birth and the beginning of the Holy War. Raul Barrera from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said they had been “placed facing what was the centre of Huitzilopochtli worship and can be dated back to the fourth stage of the Great Temple’s construction (1440-1469)”.
The Aztecs were a warlike and deeply religious people who built numerous monumental works including the famous Templo Mayor in what is now Mexico City. They ruled an empire encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico until they were overthrown by the Spanish in 1521.
The pre-Columbian remains are of great archaeological value because this is the first time such pieces have been found within the sacred grounds of Tenochtitlan and can be read “as an iconographic document narrating certain myths of that ancient civilization,” INAH archaeologist Raul Barrera said.
The cosmic battle
According to the myth of the God of War’s birth, the Goddess of the Earth and Fertility, Coatlicue, was magically impregnated by a ball of feathers that fell on her while she was sweeping a temple, and subsequently gave birth to the gods Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl as well as Huitzilopochtli. This pregnancy angered her other children who saw it shameful that their father was a ball of feathers, so 400 warriors from southern Mexico and the Goddess Coyolxauhqui decided to ascend Coatepec mountain where Coatlicue lived and kill her, however Huitzilopochtli springs fully armed from his mothers womb when he hears of the plot.
Image source: Aztec City of Tenochtitlan and images of Huitzilopochtli (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons