Archaeologists have discovered a post-Conquest Mexican altar in a property near Plaza Garibaldi, the birthplace of mariachi music in Mexico City.
A team from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered the 16th century altar while excavating a property on which there are the remains of a house once occupied by a Mexican family.
Archaeologists believe the occupants performed a ritual some time after the 1521 conquest to mark the end of a cycle in their lives and the fall of the Aztec Empire, whose most important city, Tenochtitlán, was conquered by the Spaniards.
“Between the songs and the smell of copal, the inhabitants used an altar with multiple elements in the patio,” the Ministry of Culture said in a press release.
Among the contents of the altar were a pot filled with human ashes, bowls, a pulque cup, a plate and 13 incense burners, each of which was nearly a meter high.
The altar was discovered four meters below the surface of the ground and was covered with several layers of adobe to protect it from prying eyes, said Mara Abigaíl Becerra Amezcua, the archaeologist who led the project.
Excavation of the property, located on the main thoroughfare that runs through Mexico City’s historic center, began in September and took three months, she said.
Becerra said the INAH team also found remains of musical instruments made from bones, suggesting that many rituals took place there.
The 13 incense burners may have been placed in the altar to represent the 20 13-day periods in the 260-day Mexican calendar known as the tonalpōhualli, she said.
“The characteristics of the incense burners also reinforce the Nahua understanding of the universe,” Becerra said.
All the relics indicate that the altar was used in the first decades after the invasion of Tenochtitlán, she said.
It was used as part of a “closing ritual,” which was an “essential act for the worldview” of the city’s Mexican residents, Becerra said.
Mexico Daily News