The Great Pyramid (Templo Mayor) was the holiest shrine in Tenochtitlan. As was common, the temple was rebuilt at least six times, on par with the expansion of the Aztec Empire. Each time the former structure was filled with stone and mud and covered by a larger and better quality building. At each inauguration of the building, captives from rival kingdoms were sacrificed. It is estimated that in it’s last inauguration in 1487 up to 84,000 people were sacrificed over a 4 day period. The Aztecs sacrificed on a huge scale believing it necessary to feed the sun with blood so that it would rise each day.
During the battle of Tenochtitlan, the temple was razed by the Spanish and much of the rubble was used as building material for the Cathedral which sits in the background of the Temple and other buildings in the city when the Spanish rebuilt the city. The Temple was buried and long forgotten until 1978. While workers were excavating for the Metro they uncovered an 8 ton rock slab covered with carvings of the goddess Coyolxuahqui, prompting a major archaeological project and eventually uncovering the Great Temple.
We visited the Templo Mayor on Monday. It’s such a buzz to be in a place that is so old with so much history behind it and also knowing that much has still to be uncovered. A week before arriving a monolith was discovered with new carvings on it and much of the Temple still remains buried. The artwork and some of the color is still visible in some areas. What an experience.