In 2015, archaeologists in Mexico City began to uncover one of the darkest monuments from the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. It all began when, near the ruins of the Templo Mayor, archaeologists began unearthing layer after layer of severed human skulls. As the skulls accumulated into the hundreds, nearing thousands, they realized they had likely found the Huey Tzompantli, a tower of skulls that even mortified the Spanish conquistadores of Hernan Cortes in 1521.
According to the legend, the tower of human remains was supposed to be constructed from the decapitated skulls of enemy warriors who had been defeated by the Aztecs. Now, with hundreds of skulls to study, archaeologists have found that the legend was not entirely true. Among the tower of skulls, remains of women and children have been found.
If the site discovered by archaeologists is truly the Huey Tzompantli, as described by conquistadores such as Andrés de Tapia and Bernal Diaz del Castillo, then it is likely that many more skulls will be discovered. After all, the site is believed to have been a chapel devoted to the Aztec sun-god Huitzilopochtli, a deity of war and human sacrifice.
In both of the accounts given by the two Spanish conquistadores listed above, the Huey Tzompantli was estimated to have around 100,000 skulls lining its walls. As of now (written in 2017), the number of skulls that archaeologist have uncovered are nearing 700. Yet, the site is estimated to be 200 feet in diameter (around 60 meters), and they still have not reached the tower’s base. As a result, many more grisly discoveries likely lie in wait.
Written by C. Keith Hansley.