An eleven-year-old long exploration of a secret tunnel – sealed almost 2,000 years ago – beneath the ancient city Teotihuacan in Mexico has revealed thousands of relics and the discovery of three chambers. And at the feet of what some researchers say is a royal tomb.
Originally, the tunnel entrance was kept hidden until 2003 when researchers from Mexico’s National University uncovered it with radar underneath one of the country’s most-visited historic sites. The tunnel seemed to have been blocked on purpose by the city’s residents as its entrance, more than 40 feet below ground, was shielded with rocks.
Project leader Sergio Gomez said researchers recently reached the end of the 340-foot (103-meter) tunnel after painstakingly working their way down its reach, following a route of symbols.
On the way, relics from seeds to pottery, to animal bones, were collected. An immense offering found near the entryway to the chambers, which sits 59 feet below the Temple of the Plumed Serpent, suggests the site could be the tombs of Teotihuacan’s nobles.
“Because this is one of the most sacred places in all Teotihuacan, we believe that it could have been used for the rulers to … acquire divine endowment allowing them to rule on the surface,” Gomez said.
Archaeologists have never discovered any remains believed to belong to Teotihuacan’s elite, making the city distinctly from other pre-Columbian Mexican sites. If the ruins does indeed house the city’s rulers’ tombs, such a finding could help illuminate the leadership structure of the city, including whether rule was passed down from generation.
“We have not lost hope of finding that, and if they are there, they must be from someone very, very important,” Gomez said.
To date, Gomez and team have excavated only about two feet into the chambers, meaning a complete inspection will take at least another year.
“Due to the magnitude of the offerings that we’ve found, it can’t be in any other place,” Gomez said. “We’ve been able to confirm all of the hypotheses we’ve made from the beginning.”
At its height in the middle of the first century, Teotihuacan dominated central Mexico with over 150,000 inhabitants. However, it was abandoned before the rise of the Aztecs in the 14th century, who gave the city its name, which translates to “birthplace of the gods” in English.