Archaeologists in Mexico Unearth Evidence That Aztecs Resisted Spanish Rule Even In Death
Archaeologists in Mexico have uncovered what they speculate was a dwelling where Aztecs of the higher socioeconomic classes that fought against the Spanish conquistadors tried to preserve their customs and traditions. The building where Aztecs were also entombed, is part of an old neighborhood in Mexico City called Colhuacatonco, notable for being a location where the Aztecs fought against the Spanish invasion in the 16th century.
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Human remains at the Aztec site of Colhuacatonco [Credit: María de la Luz Escobedo, INAH]
The Fall of Tenochtitlan
As reported in a previous Ancient Origins article, the fall of Tenochtitlan is an important event in the history of the Americas as it marks – according to many historians – the end of the Aztec Empire. This event took place on August 13, 1521 and was the result of a three-month long siege. However, some historians claim that the Spanish were not really the masters of Mexico yet, and they would only achieve this status some decades later. Despite the Aztec Empire coming to an end, local resistance continued outside Tenochtitlan, which would take the Spanish about 60 grueling years to completely suppress.
Regardless, in May 1521, Cortés began his siege of Tenochtitlan. The Spanish plan was to cut off the city’s supplies by disconnecting it from the mainland, thus forcing its inhabitants to submit. As the Spanish drew ever closer to Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs attempted to break their grip, though these efforts were not successful. The Spanish eventually reached the city, though more fighting had to be done before they finally surrendered on August 13, 1521. As a result of the fall of Tenochtitlan, Aztec dominance in Mexico came to an end and the Spanish were the new rulers of the area, though it would take them another couple of decades to consolidate their position.
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Artifacts found at the site included characters with western traits wearing hats [Credit: Meliton Tapia, INAH]
Skeletons and Funeral Offerings Found
Back to 2017 and the new find. Archaeologists reportedly found almost complete skeletons that were buried in the fetal position, as well as many bone fragments as Archaeology News Network reported. The dead bodies were buried in the corners of the dwelling area and at the entrances, while the funeral offerings found included two small knives made of obsidian and ceramics from that era, a small figure of a coyote and a bracelet with shells.
Additionally, artifacts that indicate the blending of the Aztec and the Spanish culture were also found, such as figurines of humans with non-Aztec features wearing hats, “What we detect in the materials is 'that which is Mexican,' the blending that began to take place after the Spanish conquest was complete," Escobedo stated as Archaeology News Network reported.
Interestingly, the rooms of the dwelling were constructed with stone, while archaeologists were impressed by a 3 meter by 4 meter (10 foot by 13 foot) area that was most likely used for ceremonial events. Ultimately, the polished and well-preserved floors have a symbol in the center, depicting a circle with black spokes, which archaeologists speculated probably represents a shield.
Top image: Burial at the Aztec site of Colhuacatonco belonging to the time of Spanish contact [Credit: María de la Luz Escobedo, INAH]