After the crucial August of 1521, one of the first actions taken by the Spanish was to create a new trace on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, through which they expelled the indigenous people to the periphery, to settle in the sociopolitical center of the nascent viceregal city. However, away from those foreign gazes, from their homes, the Mexicas maintained multiple acts of resistance that today resurface thanks to archaeology.

This is the case of the recent discovery of the remains of a Mexica house and four child burials dating from the Early Colonial period (1521-1620), but still carried out in the pre-Hispanic way, as documented by a project of archaeological salvage carried out on a property in the neighborhood of La Lagunilla, in the Historic Center of Mexico City.

The Archaeological Salvage Directorate (DSA) of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) began the excavation last November and is preparing to conclude its work in the field, and the archaeologist in charge of the project, Juan Carlos Campos Varela, notes that, in historical terms, this area corresponded to the Cotolco neighborhood and belonged to the partiality of Atzacoalco, one of the four great territorial divisions of Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

The importance of the context in question – which is added to the other Mexica offering, recently located, and which was also deposited in the viceregal era but in the former partiality of Cuepopán– is that it denotes the difficult living conditions endured by the indigenous people who were unable to flee from Tenochtitlan during its siege or after its fall.

The above, explains the researcher, is inferred because the four burials of infants do not have traces of ritual sacrifice, so the causes of their deaths – which will be determined with physical anthropology exams – would be more associated with a time of crisis.

A clear indicator is the skull of the oldest infant, who could have died between the ages of six or eight –according to the size of his bones and his dental buds–, in which orbital sieves can be seen on the roofs of his eye orbits, a disease directly associated with anemia, infectious processes, parasites and imbalance in the diet.

The hypothesis could be tested by verifying whether the smallest infant is an unborn child, perhaps spontaneously aborted due to some nutritional deficiency or maternal stress, and, on the other hand, by considering the results of previous archaeological salvages.

“Three years ago we excavated in front of the property where we are now working and we found three adult and four child burials, also from the Early Colonial period. In other words, if we add those children to the ones we have today, the evidence indicates that, at least in this neighborhood of Cotolcowho were dying the most were the infants.”

Although, Campos Varela comments, it is difficult to determine the sex of each of the remains of the four newly discovered children –which will be investigated in the laboratory–, their mortuary offerings are of special interest: “two had no offering and were only burials primaries placed in the early viceroyalty strata; The probable unborn child was accompanied by two tripod ceramic bowls and lay inside a globular pot –35 centimeters in diameter and 50 centimeters high–, which tells us about the survival of a funerary practice that sought to return it to the maternal womb, represented by pot”.

Of the set, the most complete offering is that of the infant between six or eight years old: five small vessels, two spinning spindles and a blue-pigmented figurine, which, due to its iconography, represents a woman holding a girl on her lap. , hence the bone remains could probably be female.

In the whole set, the most complete offering is that of the infant of six or eight years of age. Photo EE: Courtesy INAH

It should be noted that one more offering was located on the property, which protected a blue-pigmented vessel – 30 centimeters in diameter and 35 centimeters high – and contained the bones of a bird. Although it lacks the attributes of Tlaloc, god of rain, its coloration could associate it with the aquatic world, still revered in the pre-Hispanic way.

They protect Mexican housing

In a historical coincidence, the area where the remains of the pre-Hispanic dwelling were found will maintain this use in the 21st century, since the archaeological salvage of the INAH It is carried out prior to the construction of a residential building, by the Housing Institute of Mexico City.

The actions that are carried out until the end of June consist of the excavation of the 148-square-meter area, where the remains of Mexica architecture were discovered, before they are protected with geotextile and covered to make way for contemporary work.

The record of the pre-Hispanic house, consisting of four rooms –one of them possibly the kitchen, due to the discovery of a tlecuilli or hearth–, a corridor and a small patio that shelters what was probably an altar, allows us to know the living spaces of the Late Postclassic period (1480-1521 AD), towards the boundaries of Atzacoalco and Cuepopan, and the borders of Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco.

“It is interesting to find rammed with stuccoed sections, and remembering that lime was not an immediate product in the Basin of Mexico, we can say that, before the arrival of the Spaniards, families of priests or warriors could live here, who had access to certain foreign resources, despite the fact that they were not part of the ruling elite”, concludes the archaeologist Campos Varela.

As part of the DSA project, the more than 200 complete and semi-complete objects recovered will be safeguarded, including toys, whistles, plates, spouted vessels, coins and medals, ranging from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

The group of experts, formed by the archaeologists Alejandra Núñez Mejía and Marisol Bautista Roquez, supported by the geologist Gloria García Tovar and 15 technical workers, give cleaning treatments to the pieces, while determining with the National Coordination of INAH Cultural Heritage Conservationthe specific objects that will receive restore processes.

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