Archaeologists have discovered an Aztec stone shrine that is believed to have showcased the ancient civilization’s view of the universe. The structure was reportedly found at the site called Nahualac, which consists of a pond at the bottom of the dormant Iztacchihuatl volcano, at an elevation of close to 13,000 feet.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) referred to the shrine as a “tetzacualco,” which, as explained by Newsweek, is the Aztec term for astronomical observatories located on high mountain slopes. A report from the Daily Express added that the shrine consisted of stone, ceramic fragments, and other materials associated with the Aztec rain god Tlaloc.
“These visual effects, in addition to the characteristics of the elements that make up the site and the relationship they have with each other, make us suppose that Nahualac could represent a microcosm that evokes the primitive waters and the beginning of the mythical time-space,” read a statement from INAH archaeologist Iris del Rocio Hernandez Bautista.
Further explaining their recent find, the INAH researchers said that the Aztec stone shrine might have been the “representation of a primeval time and space,” representing the universe in miniaturized form.
A report from the International Business Times cited Bautista’s explanation of what may have inspired ancient Aztecs to create the structure. Like the traditional story of creation, the Mesoamerican version imagines a version of the world that initially did not have any land, but was filled with water. According to this myth, the “Earth monster” Cipactli floated on these waters and created the sky and land from his body. This meshes with the newly discovered Aztec stone shrine’s setup, as the main structure and stone mounds were made to look like they were floating on a liquid mirror, as water from springs was directed to the shrine in a “ritualized” manner.”
“These visual effects, in addition to the characteristics of the elements that make up the site and the relationship they have with each other, make us suppose that Nahualac could represent a microcosm that evokes the primitive waters and the beginning of the mythical time-space.”
Although Cipactli is traditionally described as a “monster,” there are several separate myths that offer their own description of how the creature looks like, including those that describe it as a crocodile with physical features found in toads and fish, according to Ancient Origins. But all these myths referred to Cipactli as the “source of the cosmos” regardless of its appearance, albeit one that was destroyed by the gods as they started the actual process of creation.
Tlaloc, the Aztec god believed to have been associated with the shrine and the artifacts found within it, is described by Aztec Calendar as the god of rain, lightning, and thunder, and a “wrathful” deity who could bring about floods and droughts. Typical depictions portray Tlaloc as a “goggle-eyed blue being with jaguar fangs” that creates thunder with his rattle and wears a net of clouds to produce rain.
According to Bautista, the ceramic artifacts found in the Aztec stone structure were identified as having dated back from 750 through 1150 A.D., covering an area of 300 by 100 meters (1,000 by 330 feet).