INAH investigates bas-relief of golden eagle discovered in Templo Mayor

A new archaeological discovery It was announced by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Is about an ancient and finely accomplished expression of the sculptural Mexica: a bas-relief with the image of a golden eagle located in the Templo Mayor, in the heart of the historic center of Mexico City.

“From what we have seen through photographs, it is a very beautifully crafted piece that shows the great secrets that the Templo Mayor of Mexico Tenochtitlan has yet to reveal to us. I want to extend my appreciation to the INAH archaeologists who collaborate in this space, since, thanks to their effort and dedication, we can continue to recover our history and our memory, ”said the Secretary of Culture, Alejandra Frausto Guerrero, about this remarkable find.

Although the archaeological piece of the golden eagle was discovered in February 2020, it is until this moment when its investigation has been deepened that the find was made known.

It is a piece of more than one meter long carved on red tezontle in bas-relief and corresponding to that of larger size “within a set of 67 similar elements found so far in the Templo Mayor,” the INAH said in a statement.

According to specialists, the relevance of the sculpture goes beyond its size and finish, as its location also stands out, at the foot of the most important building for the Mexica and in the central axis that crosses the ‘chapel’ of Huitzilopochtli and the monumental sculpture of the goddess Coyolxauhqui.

Regarding the discovery of the bas-relief, the archaeologist of the Templo Mayor Project, Rodolfo Aguilar Tapia, affirms that the piece “it has a good state of preservation “, as it highlights that” it is an element that was never seen by the Spanish.

“This floor is unique in the entire Templo Mayor as it contains bas-reliefs that allude to the dual conception of the building. On the south side, where we are exploring, there are elements like this eagle, linked to the mythical cycle of the birth of Huitzilopochtli; while to the north, the bas-reliefs located above contain representations associated with Tláloc, the water cycle and the regeneration of corn ”.

Aguilar Tapia specifies that “thanks to the work carried out by archaeologists Eduardo Matos Moctezuma and Leonardo López Luján, today there is a defined stratigraphic correspondence, which allows researchers to know in which construction stage of the Templo Mayor the findings are located, and at what epoch belong the same “.

The symbolism of the golden eagle

Aguilar Tapia points out that one of the representations of the golden eagle appears in Plate 50 of the Borgia Codex, where a golden eagle is shown posing on top of a mesquite tree, a tree that rises from a stark deity.

“The interesting thing is that this image is iconographically very similar to the bas-relief that we find in the field, in both representations the feathers end in the shape of sacrificial knives, which allude to the Nahua name of the bird: obsidian eagle.”

For the Mexican peoples, this bird was closely related to war and sacrifice, and in the same way it was considered a nahual of the sun and, therefore, also of its tutelary god, Huitzilopochtli, says the INAH in a statement.

The following plans for the Templo Mayor Project will focus on “finishing the exploration of the floor where the bas-relief is to be found in order to look for more others and then, with extreme care, temporarily remove them and be able to investigate underneath them in search of offerings or other architectural elements.”

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