Mexican involuntarily buried the ancient tunnel discovered in the Old Aztec Capital

Fareeha Arshad

Archaeologists in Mexico reburied an ancient tunnel that was part of the Albarradón de Ecatepec flood-control system near Mexico City. The Albarradón de Ecatepec was built centuries ago to protect the capital of the Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan, from rising waters. Spanish conquistadors initially failed to appreciate the indigenous infrastructure and destroyed many pre-Hispanic constructions. However, after repeated floods in early colonial Mexico City, similar flood-control systems, including the Albarradón de Ecatepec, were built or repaired in the 1600s.

In 2019, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered a small tunnel gate within the Albarradón de Ecatepec, measuring only 8.4 meters long. The tunnel contained pre-Hispanic glyphs, including symbols of a war shield, a bird of prey's head, and raindrops, among others. The glyphs were believed to have been added by non-Hispanic residents involved in the construction of the Albarradón de Ecatepec. Although the dike displayed pre-Hispanic iconography, its overall architectural design indicated Spanish influence.

Originally, the discovery was intended to be publicly exhibited to showcase the fusion of Aztec and Spanish cultural elements. However, due to a lack of funding to properly construct the exhibit and protect the structure, the tunnel will be reburied to prevent damage, vandalism, or looting. The economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in Mexico primarily drive the decision.

The researchers plan to protect the glyphs with special masonry before covering the site with Earth. While it is unusual for archaeologists to "undiscover" cultural treasures, the reburial aims to ensure the preservation of the tunnel section. The hope is that when resources allow, the tunnel will be revealed again to the public in the future.

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I am a scientist by profession and a historian by passion. I mostly write about history and science.

Texas State

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