Mexican experts to tunnel for Aztec rulers' tombs

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Archaeologists found some of the richest and most unusual Aztec offerings ever in excavations under a mammoth slab depicting an earth goddess and said Wednesday they hope to uncover an emperor's tomb nearby.

The seven offerings of strange and unparalleled oddities found under the stone slab depicting the goddess Tlaltecuhtli include the skeleton of a dog or wolf dressed in turquoise ear plugs, jadeite necklaces and golden bells on its feet.

The 4-meter (13-foot) long carving of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee) was found in 2006 near the edge of the Templo Mayor pyramid in downtown Mexico City. It was lifted out in 2007 and archaeologists began digging underneath.

On Wednesday, the huge stone monument was put on display for reporters before its first public exhibition. The sculpture itself challenges the public perception of Aztec monuments as bare stone-colored carvings, because it preserves a half-dozen original colors in which it was originally painted, including rich ochre, red, yellow and blue hues.

Archaeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan said the presence of shells from distant seas, gold earrings and collars as well as strange wooden daggers found under the slab suggest that a very important person is buried nearby.
"These are offerings that we have never seen before, and obviously they give us very good indications that at some point we can find a royal tomb," Lopez Lujan said.
The offerings — dedicated to gods, not rulers — are from such far-flung corners of the continent that "they are telling us we are dealing with a big, big empire," he said.

Historical records from the time of Spain's 1521 conquest and markings on the Tlaltecuhtli slab suggest the Aztec emperor Ahuizotl, who died in 1502, was cremated and his ashes buried somewhere at the foot of the Templo Mayor pyramid....

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