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Subway System Excavations Important for Archaeology
Panoramic view of Izazaga street, during the construction of subway lines 1 and 2. Photo: INAH Archive.

MEXICO CITY.- Construction of the Metro Collective Transport System tunnels have benefited Mexican Archaeology by uncovering vestiges found in Mexico City. In 4 decades more than 20,000 objects from Prehispanic, Colonial, and Modern ages have been recovered, allowing verify information from historical documents.

Archaeologist Raul Arana, who worked in the first archaeological salvage tasks conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in 1967, when the first 2 Metro lines were being constructed, declared so.

Explorations were performed at densely populated places that would have not been excavated in other circumstances, such as Izazaga Avenue and the Zocalo Square, mentioned the archaeologist at a conference presented as part of the 40 years of the Metro commemorations.

At his lecture about the first participations of INAH in archaeological exploration at the Metro excavations, Arana recalled how the first 2 lines were perpendicular, and how the other lines were created parallel to the first ones, forming a reticule that to present cover the city.

Tunnels and some of the stations were built at 12 to 16 meters depth, which brings opportunity to revise different stratigraphic layers and gathering information about Prehistory in the region.

He recalled that when INAH archaeologists knew that the Metro would be constructed under Palacio Nacional, crossing different streets of the Historical Center, where the ancient city of Tenochtitlan was, they saw the opportunity of recovering material and information only known at the time by historical documents.

“As archaeologists the news impressed and moved us, since excavating in front of Palacio Nacional, in the back of the Cathedral, was a dream for many of us, and at the time seem impossible”.

It was then when the former Department of Prehistory, in charge of Jose Luis Lorenzo, launched an archaeological salvage program that allowed studying settlements at Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco and Tlacopan, commented Arana at the conference presented in Templo Mayor.

“After opening the pavement, we were able to observe the transformations that the city has suffered since Mexicas dwelled it; Colonial times, the Independent age up to middle 20th century. We were founding material history of the city”.

Arana recalled that since the first dwell was open, a variety of material was found, from fragments and complete ceramic pieces such as plates, vases, figurines, censers, and osseous rests.

Regarding constructions, rests of walls and shrines were found, some of them with stucco and mural painting now guarded at the National Museum of Anthropology, where all the pieces found between 1967 and the 1970’s decades are stored.

Arana remarked that findings from the construction of Lines 1 and 2 were the most important “because they provide the highest quantity of information and archaeological material; nearly 13,000 pieces were rescued”.

Mexico | National Institute of Anthropology and History | Raul Arana | Subway System Excavations |

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