Jade mask found inside Pyramid of the Sun
Archaeologists discovered a series of deposits in the interior of the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan in Mexico. The team of researchers announced their findings after exploring the 65-metre high pyramid from 2008 to 2011.
Using the 116 metre long tunnel excavated in the 1930s by archaeologist Eduardo Noguera, the Pyramid of the Sun Project, directed by Alejandro Sarabia, stratigraphically excavated 59 trenches and created 3 short tunnels in order to reach the natural rock level and verify the presence of burials and offerings.
“We knew that if the builders of Teotihuacan placed something inside the monument it would have been done at the base level, so we made a vertical shaft at the end of the tunnel and a short horizontal tunnel to reach the centre of the pyramid, since the original tunnel was cut approximately 6 metres to the west of the centre of the monument”, commented team member Perez Cortes.
A tunnel into the heart of the pyramid
Over the course of the exploration three architectural structures were discovered, constructed prior to the current Pyramid of the Sun. Seven human burials, including children, were also recorded as having been buried before the construction of the building. In addition, two votive deposits were recovered.
One of the votive offerings was discovered inside the original foundation material, so it is certain it was deposited as part of a consecration ceremony of the structure, probably at the beginning of its construction more than 1900 years ago.
Foundation offering with greenstone mask. Image INAH
The deposit, which contained an outstanding greenstone mask was part of several layers of artefacts.
A considerable number of of obsidian artefacts including projectile heads and small knives were recovered, an anthropomorphic eccentric artefact and three anthropomorphic figurines with shell and pyrite eyes.
Among the three greenstone sculptures found, the mask carved from a single stone is, according to studies conducted by Dr. Jose Luis Ruvalcaba, from the National University Physics Institute (IF UNAM), “the only greenstone mask discovered in the ritual context of Teotihuacan.”
The small 11 cm high mask is different to other Teotihuacan types because of it’s size; it is possible that it was a portrait. A seashell was found next to the sculpture.
The offering also contained eleven Tlaloc vessels, (dedicated to the God of Rain) most of them broken, placed in the middle of the whole deposit. Further objects include three pyrite discs, one with a 45 cm diameter and mounted on a slate slab – the largest ever recovered from Teotihuacan.
Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan. Image: Codilicious (Flickr, Creative commons Licence)
A possible link to rain
A substantial quantity of animal skeletons were also found. The skull of a feline was placed to the northeast; a canine to the south, and an eagle covered with volcanic rock, to the southeast. The bird had been fed before the sacrifice with two rabbits, analysis has revealed. This kind of faunal deposition is similar to those found as offerings in the Pyramid of the Moon.
The archaeologists had long suggested the function of the pyramid was linked to the underworld because of the tunnel excavated by the inhabitants of Teotihuacan. However, the objects found in this recent investigation seem to be indicating that the Pyramid of the Sun was possibly connected to a rain deity, an early version of Tlaloc.