River of Mercury in Underworld of Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl may lead to Royal Tomb
Archaeologists believe that a recent discovery of liquid mercury in a subterranean tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, Mexico, may represent an underworld river that leads the way to a Royal tomb or tombs. The remains of the kings of Teotihuacan, some of the most powerful rulers of the pre-Hispanic world, have never been found. Such a discovery would be monumental as it would unravel many of the mysteries surrounding this ancient civilization.
The ancient city of Teotihuacan, which is located about 30 miles (50 km) northeast of Mexico city, flourished between 100 BC and 750 AD and is one of the largest and most important sacred cities of ancient Mesoamerica, whose name means "the city of the gods" in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. It once supported an estimated population of 100,000 – 200,000 people, who raised giant monuments such as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent) and the Pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. However, much about Teotihuacan remains unknown, including the origin of the people who lived there, as they did not leave behind any written records.
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The entrance to an 1,800-year-old tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, the third largest pyramid at Teotihuacan, was first discovered in 2003, and an extensive project involving both human researchers and remote-control robots, has been ongoing ever since. Only recently have Mexican archaeologists announced the results of a years-long exploration of the underground tunnel, including the discovery of three chambers and thousands of artifacts, including: jade statues, jaguar remains, and a box filled with carved shells and rubber balls. Now researchers have also announced the presence of a large quantity of liquid mercury.
Temple of the Feathered Serpent. Photo credit: Wikipedia
Mexican researcher Sergio Gómez, who has been working on the excavations of the underground tunnel, told Reuters that the liquid mercury may have been placed there to symbolize an underworld river or lake, and could be a sign that the team is drawing closer to unearthing the first royal tomb ever found in Teotihuacan and unravelling centuries of mystery surrounding the leadership of the once powerful city.
“The Tunnel is the metaphorical representation of the conception of the underworld,” said Gomez. A large offering found near the entrance to the three chambers, suggests they could be the tombs of the city's elite. “Due to the magnitude of the offerings that we’ve found, it [royal tombs] can’t be in any other place,” added Gomez.
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A graphic which shows the tunnel that may lead to a royal tombs discovered underneath the Quetzalcoatl temple in the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Photograph: Handout via Reuters
Rosemary Joyce, a professor of anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, told The Guardian that Mesoamericans could create liquid mercury by heading mercury ore, known as cinnabar. They used it to decorate jade objects and color the bodies of their royalty. Traces of mercury have been found at three other sites, two Maya and one Olmec, around Central America, but none in such large quantities as that discovered beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent.
The research team are continuing to excavate along the subterranean corridor beneath the pyramid, equipped with protective gear to guard against the dangers of mercury exposure. They expect excavations to conclude by October, with announcement of findings by the end of 2015.
Featured image: Pyramid of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan and Underground Sketch Compilation.