Mexico (Mexique): seven pink spatula birds found at the Templo Mayor

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View of the pyramid. Photo: INAH.

In homage to his father Alfredo Lopez Austin, the archaeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan, director of the Great Temple Project, through a learned paper sent and read by the ethnohistorian Guilhem Olivier, illustrated us in one of the most revealing findings of the estate of Nava Chavez: the presence of seven pink spatula birds. This was shown in the third session of conferences in the symposium, in which authorities of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) where present, as well as a great quantity of people, reunited in the Juan Ruiz de Alarcon Theater at the University’s Cultural Center. Set in the company of a great diversity of artifacts and materials ranging from resin bars, green stone beads, serpent like scepters, flint knives, a collection of marine and terrestrial animals, and other birds like the golden Eagle, as well as the complete pink spatula specimens (tlauhquechol in Nahuatl), as well as their skins, which were pointed west and with their heads directed towards the sunset. “Also —continued the investigator Guilhem Olivier from the Institute of Historical Investigation from UNAM—, “they have always found these birds associated to water and fertility deities and covering their rich plumage they believed to find symbols relating to the underworld, described in sources as aquatic in character, nocturne and death.” These offerings had been distributed in the property where the monolith of the goddess Tlaltecuhtli was discovered, they were found buried underneath the floor of the plaza, exactly at the foot of the Great Temple pyramid which is pointing west. The ancient religious meaning attributed by the Nahuas to the Tlauhquechol has brought revealing information in order to understand the motives of the priests that interred them. These were related to the diseased, particularly the warriors, the nobles and the kings, having these solar connotations. According to the narratives of Alvarado Tezozomoc and Duran, when the Mexica sovereigns passed away their bodies were cremated in a great pyre built especially for these rituals in the Great Temple”. This, added Guilhem Olivier, happened at least in the case of the three brothers that inherited the throne of Tenochtitlan: Axayacatl, Tizoc and Ahuizotl. In light of this evidence, “we believe that the pink spatula specimens, buried sometimes next to Golden eagles and hummingbirds, in front of the Great Temple, may allude to the Sun and the warriors fallen in battle”.

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