1,800-year-old bouquets of flowers found in tunnel under the pyramid of Teotihuacán | Smart News

Archaeologists hope the flowers will shed new light on the rituals carried out by the ancient inhabitants of Teotihuacán.
Sergio Gómez-Chávez / National Institute of Anthropology and History

Archaeologists have discovered four bouquets of flowers in the pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, located just northeast of present-day Mexico City. Dated around 1 to 200 CE, the flowers were discovered in a tunnel under a pyramid dedicated to the feathered serpent deity Quetzalcóatl.

As Javier Salinas Cesáreo reports for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, the find marks the first discovery of well-preserved plant material in the city ruins. Next, the team plans to study what types of flowers are depicted and when they were collected.

“In total there are four bouquets of flowers in very good condition. They are always tied with ropes, probably cotton ”, Sergio Gómez-Chavez, director of the Tlalocan Project, an international effort led by Mexico National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), tells La Jornada, by Google Translate. “It’s a very important discovery because she speaks [to] the rituals that were performed in this place.

Gómez-Chávez and his colleagues were exploring the tunnel earlier this month when they realized it was continuing further than expected. Through Live Science‘s Owen Jarus, the newly discovered space also contained a sculpture of the god of rain and fertility Tlaloc, as well as many pieces of pottery.

The bouquets, which each contain between 40 and 60 flowers, appear to have been part of a ceremony involving a large bonfire. Gómez-Chávez tells Live Science that people probably put the bouquets of flowers on the ground and covered them with copious amounts of wood, protecting the flowers from the fire.

1,800-year-old bouquets of flowers found in tunnel under the pyramid of Teotihuacán

The tunnel passes under the pyramid, extending further than archaeologists originally thought.

Sergio Gómez-Chávez / INAH

Eight centuries before the rise of Aztec empire, Teotihuacán was one of the largest cities in the world, reaching a population of 125,000 to 200,000 around 500 CE, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The city was a major pre-Hispanic power, trading with remote parts of Mesoamerica and exerting cultural influence throughout the region.

Teotihuacán maintained alternately hostile and friendly relations with neighboring Mayan cities. As Matthew Shaer reported for Smithsonian magazine in 2016, a fire, possibly started by an enemy army, razed much of the city in 550, and by 750 it had been all but abandoned. Today the ruins of the city are a Unesco World Heritage site, with the surviving Quetzalcoatl temple as one of its most impressive features, as well as the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon.

The tunnel where the new finds were made was discovered in 2003 after a rainstorm opened a sinkhole near the temple. Since then, researchers have found thousands of artifacts at the site, including cocoa beans, obsidian and animal remains. As Paul Laity reported for the Guardian in 2017, the team also discovered a miniature landscape with tiny mountains and lakes made of liquid mercury. The walls of the tunnel were decorated with pyrite, or fool’s gold, which reflected the light of the fire to create the illusion of a star-studded sky.

Gómez-Chávez tells La Jornada that the Tlalocan project work over the years helped researchers discover the worldview and ritualistic activities of the Teotihuacán people.

He says, “[E]Each discovery adds another grain of sand to the knowledge of one of the most important and complex societies that existed in ancient times.


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