John Pohl, THE CODICES John Pohl's


Image - A map of Tenochtitlán A map of Tenochtitlán made from Cortés’ personal memory and published in 1524. Despite the use of European artistic conventions, it features many accurate details. There were three major causeways that ran from the mainland into the city which was divided into four districts and populated by more than two hundred thousand people. In 1521, Cortés demolished the ceremonial center during the course of the longest continuous battle ever recorded in military history. Ancient Tenochtitlán was lost to memory. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Mexico City 1790 and Coatlicue Statue Three centuries later, the fascination with the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilizations that absorbed fashionable intellectual circles in Europe spread to Colonial México. The belief that the ancient Aztec ruins of a principal ceremonial precinct might lie below México City’s zocalo (town square) was first confirmed in 1790 when workmen resurfacing the central square discovered the monolithic sculptures known as the Calendar Stone and the Coatlique Statue. New discoveries continued through the twentieth century. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Codex Ixtlilxochitl illustration Early scholars began to examine documents for clues to the appearance of the Great Temple. The 16th century Codex Ixtlilxochitl depicts a profile view of a structure thought to be very similar in style. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Illustration Other historical sources described the Great Temple as having two chambers: the one to the north dedicated to the ancient Toltec storm-god Tlaloc, and the other to the south dedicated to the Chichimec hero Huitzilopochtli. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Remains of a temple staircase Comparison with existing structures such as the remains of a temple staircase at Tenayuca lying seven miles north of the zocalo gave architectural historians some indication of the proportions of the Great Temple. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Round structure Construction of the México City subway during the 1960’s led to the excavation of smaller district and calpulli temples such as a round structure possibly dedicated to Quetzalcoatl now preserved at the Piño Suarez metro station lying seven blocks south of the zocalo. Archaeologists suspected from such chance finds that the ruins of the Great Temple might be found as well. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Coyolxauhqui, “She Who is Adorned with Bells.” On February 21, 1978, México City electrical workers were excavating a trench six feet below the street level to the northwest of the cathedral when they encountered a monolithic carved stone block. Archaeologists were immediately called to the scene to salvage what turned out to be an eleven foot in diameter stone disk carved with a relief in human form. Recognizing the symbol of golden bells on her cheeks, salvage archaeologists identified the image as a goddess known as Coyolxauhqui, “She Who is Adorned with Bells.” According to legend the goddess was killed by Huitzilopochtli, her half-brother, and cast down from a mountain called Coatepec meaning Hill of Serpents. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - stone serpent heads Careful examination of the Coyolxauhqui stone led archaeologists to conclude that the monument was “in situ,” meaning it had never been seen by the Spaniards, much less smashed and reburied like so many other monoliths. Remembering that Coyolxauhqui’s body was said to have come to rest at the foot of the mountain, the archaeologists began to surmise that Coatepec, which is to say its incarnation as the Great Temple itself, might lay very nearby. It was not long before the archaeologists discovered parts of a grand staircase and then the massive stone serpent heads, literally signifying Coatepec, surrounding the base of the pyramid itself. The Great Temple had been found by decoding a thousand year old legend. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Diagram of the excavations of the Great Temple Diagram of the excavations of the Great Temple. Since 1980 the National Institute of Anthroplogy and History has carried out nearly continuous excavations uncovering no less than six separate building episodes of the Great Temple as well as numerous smaller temples and palaces of the surrounding precinct. Over a hundred caches of priceless objects, buried as offerings from vassal states within the matrix of the Great Temple, were excavated. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - House of the Eagles Expanding north to the point of even tunneling under México City streets, a remarkable new structure called the House of the Eagles named for stone and ceramic statuary portraying the heraldic raptor has yielded even greater art treasures. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Sculpture from the House of the Eagles Sculpture from the House of the Eagles. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Mictlantecuhtli, god of the underworld Among the most dramatic finds are the frightening life size images that Mexican archaeologists identify as Mictlantecuhtli, god of the underworld. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - Offerings of blood depicted in codices Archaeologists noted the appearance of similar figures in codices where they are being drenched in offerings of blood. Applying new archaeometric techniques to identify microscopic traces of organic material, the archaeologists found extremely high concentrations of albumin (and other substances pertaining to blood) on the floors surrounding the pedestals on which the statues once stood, further testament to the historical veracity of the ancient pictographic narrative books. Click on Image for more detail.
Image - A scale model of the lost city of Tenochtitlán A remarkable scale model displayed in México’s National Museum of Anthropology and History. As excavations continue, the lost city of Tenochtitlán has now become something tangible and comprehensible, one of the great wonders of an ancient world. Click on Image for more detail.

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