For hundreds of years in the first millennium, the ancient Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacán was one of the most impressive architectural marvels of its time. The city is arranged with massive stepped pyramids, broad avenues leading to temples and altars, and structures of unknown seemingly ritualistic purposes. The site lies just a few dozen kilometers away from what is today Mexico City and is considered one of the world’s great archaeological treasures.
Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have been excavating a tunnel beneath the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent for over three years in an attempt to locate a royal tomb believed to lie somewhere under the pyramid. While that search hasn’t yet turned up any sign of a tomb, recent discoveries have instead opened up a new set of mysteries which show how little we actually know about this massive ancient city.
Rather than a tomb, The Guardian reports that INAH researchers have instead discovered new, unknown chambers leading off of a tunnel under the pyramid. Over 100,000 artifacts were found in the tunnel’s excavation, including a strange set of four statues. The tunnel was sealed with stone and dirt around 250 AD but might have been reopened three hundred years later. Sergio Gómez who leads the INAH expedition believes that even though the tomb wasn’t found, this still could be a significant find:
It would have been a transcendent discovery which would help us understand Teotihuacán’s power structure and system of government, but we have almost finished the excavation – and there is no tomb. We have evidence that something very large and heavy was dragged out of the tunnel at some point. It could have been a tomb, but we just don’t know.
To add to the mystery surrounding the tombless tunnel, the statues found in the tunnels depict three unknown people – three women and one man. The statues are carved from stone and feature eyes made of pyrite (Fool’s gold) and carry backpacks containing pyrite mirrors.
The statues are believed to represent important public figures, perhaps the founders of Teotihuacán. While no tomb was found, these statues have the potential to shed light on the lingering mysterious surrounding Teotihuacán’s founding and sudden demise.