A 7.1-magnitude earthquake rocked Central Mexico for 20 long seconds on September 19, 2017. For the most part, this cataclysmic force of nature brought nothing but death and destruction, but now archeologists have revealed that this natural event actually helped them to track down the remnants of two Aztec god temples hidden within an ancient pyramid.
The temples were found within the Teopanzolco pyramid in Morelos state, near the modern city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. The upper part of the pyramid was heavily damaged during the 2017 earthquake, so researchers from Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) wanted to give the ancient construction a quick check-up, using radar to identify whether its internal structure had been disturbed by the rumbles.
To their surprise, the radar images and restoration work revealed the presence of long-lost twin temples – one dedicated to Tláloc, the supreme god of rain and Earthly fertility, and another dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war and Sun. They also came across a collection of ceramics and an incense burner. Unfortunately, the temples are in a pretty bad state, damaged by centuries of humidity, as well as the effects of the earthquake.
"In spite of what the earthquake meant, it is necessary to be thankful that this natural phenomenon revealed this important structure,” Isabel Campos Goenaga, director of the INAH Morelos Center, said in at a press conference [translated via Google].
The researchers were equally surprised to find out that the temple hints at the site being much older than previously thought. It was assumed that the site dates back to the Late Postclassic period (1200 to 1521 CE). However, since it appears that these two temples were built on top of at a later date, it suggests that this city was of significance long before this time period. While it was not unusual for the Tlahuica people, who built this complex, to construct new structures on top of others, the discovery was uncertainly not expected.
"There was no news, until now, of the existence of a substructure within the pyramidal structure. What we found could correspond to Teopanzolco's oldest temple, but more studies are needed to see if it is associated with an early phase of the Middle Postclassic period (1150-1200 AD), which would make it contemporary with the first construction phase of the Pyramid of Tenayuca, in the State of Mexico," concluded archaeologist Georgia Bravo Lopez.