A sacrificial wolf elaborately adorned with some of the finest Aztec gold ever found and buried more than five centuries ago has come to light in the heart of downtown Mexico City, once home to the Aztec empire's holiest shrines. Alva French reports."What is exceptional is that in this case the wolf was added to these gold-laminated pieces as joint symbols of death, war and sacrifice. That is the general theme."
"Our discovery of these deposits was lucky because a sewage line broke the southern wall of this altar in 1900 and it was thought the material had already been taken. Fortunately that was not the case and we found all the elements I have spoken of."
"We are convinced that that this is the area where they buried their rulers because in recent years we have kept finding altars, we have found a series of symbols which link these deposits with death and with rulers. There are many clues which point to this. We hope that one day they (rulers) will be found. It is likely that it is some metres where we have found (the gold) but the problem is that we are surrounded by buildings which are colonial jewels and we cannot and we will not demolish them."
A sacrificial wolf elaborately adorned with some of the finest Aztec gold ever found and buried more than five centuries ago has come to light in the heart of downtown Mexico City, once home to the Aztec empire's holiest shrines.
The quality and number of golden ornaments is highly unusual and include 22 complete pieces, such as symbol-laden pendants, a nose ring and a chest plate all made from thin sheets of the precious metal. Held in a stone box, the cache was discovered in April near the capital's bustling Zocalo plaza, behind the colonial-era Roman Catholic cathedral and off the steps of what was once the most important Aztec temple, today known as the Templo Mayor.
Not long after the roughly eight-month-old wolf was killed, it was likely dressed with golden ornaments as well as a belt of shells from the Atlantic Ocean, then carefully placed in a stone box by Aztec priests above a layer of flint knives. The wolf represented the Aztec's war god and solar deity, Huitzilopochtli, with the animal believed to help guide fallen warriors across a dangerous underworld river.
The demolition of two buildings that once covered the site over the past two decades made the excavation possible. In 1900, the box was damaged when a sewage line was laid down next to it. City workers must have had no inkling of what lay inside if they noticed it at the time.
The golden wolf was buried during the 1486-1502 reign of King Ahuitzotl, the Mexica's most feared and powerful ruler who extended the empire as far south as present-day Guatemala. Ahuitzotl's reign was known as particularly brutal, which may also have been the fate of the young wolf.
Archaeologists believe that one day they will find the remains of rulers that reigned over the Aztec kingdom. But architectural jewels from the colonial era currently stand in the way.
The site of this discovery, the Templo Mayor, would have been as high as a 15-storey building before it was razed along with the rest of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan after the 1521 Spanish conquest of Mexico.