Techniques In The Field: Finding the Temple of Ehecatl in the Heart of Mexico City

On June 5th, 2017 during the tearing down of the Hotel Catedral in the heart of Mexico City archaeologists uncovered the “Templo de Ehecatl” (Temple of Ehecatl) and a stadium for “Juego de Pelota” (Ball Game). This site had originally been discovered seven years prior when the owners of the hotel had the foundation of the property examined. The temple has a round base that measures 36 meters in diameter and the ball court, which is still not completely uncovered, is believed to be at least 50 meters long. Using stratigraphy, archaeologist Raul Barrera was able to detect three distinct phases of construction in the stones of the temple. This led him to assume that the temple and court were used between the years 1481 and 1519. The floor was made of “piedras lajas” (flat rocks that are aligned like shingles) that were still in good condition and the curvature of the base of the temple was made of “tezontle” (a highly resistant red volcanic rock still commonly used for building foundations in Mexico) that had been stuck together with mud. The mud conserved the “tezontle” very well and by using both the “piedras lajas” and “tezontle” archaeologists were able to date the structure to around 1486 AD. Archaeologists also found several groups of human cervical bones that corresponded to individuals aging from infancy to young adults. The groups of bones were found under a staircase in the “Cancha de Juego de Pelota”. From the context of where the bones were found and previous knowledge of Aztec culture, archaeologists were able to deduce that the bones belonged to individuals that were used as an offering to the god of wind, Ehecatl, as a ritual for the game. Because the site had remained underground and unopen to the air, the temple was very well preserved and still had white stucco that had been used to decorate the walls. Another main reason for which so much of the temple is so well preserved is simply because almost all the artifacts and features are made of inorganic materials. The techniques we learn in our course are used in the field all the time. For this archaeological dig, Raul Barrera and his team used stratigraphy to give a good estimate of when the temple and court were used. Using their knowledge from previous Aztec findings and the location of the artifacts they deduced why the cervical bones were at the site.



Link to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History website. Link is in Spanish, but you should have the option to translate the page to English.

Link to CNN Espanol report on the finding of the Templo of Ehecatl. Link is in Spanish, but you should have the option to translate the page to English.

Revelan nuevo hallazgo arqueológico en el corazón de Ciudad de México

Section of the Templo of Ehecatl (Temple of Ehecatl), the Mexica god of wind. Picture taken by Hector Montano, INAH

Stairway that players used to enter into the Cancha de Juego de Pelota (Field of Ball Game) Picture belongs to Mexico’s Cultural Secretary and INAH