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Archaeologists find burnt stucco floor related to astronomical event 1,350 years ago
Archaeologists from INAH found a burnt stucco floor, evidence of practices related to an astronomical event that happened approximately 1,350 years ago. Photo: DMC INAH M. Tapia.

TECOZAUTLA, MEXICO.- During the excavations in Pañhu, an archaeological zone which will soon open its doors to the public in the municipality of Tecozautla, Hidalgo, archaeologists registered a burn stucco floor, evidence that its main pyramid was desacralized approximately 1,350 years ago. This coincides with an astronomical event which was thought, by its inhabitants, to be a cataclysm.

Archaeologist Fernando Lopez Aguilar, director of the site’s investigation project promoted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), informed that there was a solar eclipse at sunrise the 3rd of August in the year 650 AD.

“To these old societies, the eclipse must have represented a catastrophe which is why they made sacrifices in order to ‘keep the star alive’, since they believed the black sun or hell’s sun had imposed on their sun ‘a giver of life’. This event generated a gradual abandonment in Teotihuacan and also had repercussions in Pañhu”, the investigator explained.

This phenomenon, Lopez Aguilar said, was interpreted as an omen to leading to the end of the cycle, so in Pañhu they decided to desacralize the main pyramid –to the north, over the plateau where the site is located– and to dig and extract the offerings to the tutelary god. This god was probably the Old Fire God, also known as Huehueteotl, Xiuhtecuhtli or the name he was called by the Otomi people, Otontecuhtlu.

Over the remains of this construction (400 – 650 AD) they built another in a different style which was appropriate to the architecture of the Late Classic period (650 – 900 AD) in the region of Huichapan, where other settlements where distributed (this includes Pañhu). The Pañhu where characterized for settling over plateaus and for keeping extensive economic links. Such has been confirmed by the finding of the turquoise originated from New Mexico, the jadeite of Valle de Motagua (Guatemala) and shells from the Gulf of Mexico.

This area, according to the archaeologist, was also the scene where one of the most important myths (The Snake) of Mesoamerican culture was created. This is where the god Huitzilopochtli defeated his brothers, the Centzohuiznahua and the Coyolxauhqui.

“In the territory that goes from the Cerro del Aguila, next to Pañhu, to Cerro del Astillero (towards the southeast and also identified as the mythical Coatepec), a conflict ensued which in pre Hispanic times would give this region the name ‘Teotlapan’, ‘Land of the Gods’, and which in modern day is Mezquital.”

The Pañhu Archaeological Project team infers the former vision that the Otomi people contributed very little to the Mesoamerican culture “can be attributed to the dominant culture: the Mexica, although Otomi speaking villages that inhabited this place possibly since the year 400 AD, were already identified with these sacred places (Cerro del Aguila, Coatepec, among other) and hid their knowledge and their customs”.

After the archaeological work carried out in the 80’s, when a preliminary exploration of Pañhu structures was done in the Valle del Mezquital Project of ENAH, and after a period of five years of uninterrupted labors (2007 – 2012), this archaeological zone is ready to open to the public. The site will have an interpretative hall which will work with a wind turbine and a solar panel, self-sustainable energy sources.

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