Mexican archaeologists are baffled by the discovery of an ancient burial site dating back to pre-Aztec times. The bizarre grave, estimated to be 2,400-years-old, was unearthed in the city of Tlalpan, located just south of Mexico. Inside, the scientists uncovered 10 skeletons of both adults and children, arranged in an unusual circular pattern that has been described as a spiral formation.
This ancient archaeological site, which until a decade ago lay buried under a busy urban settlement, was first discovered in 2006, Gizmodo reports. Since then, the area has been amply studied by archaeologists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) in Mexico, who have conducted numerous excavations at the Tlalpan site.
Their efforts were met with success when they stumbled upon the pre-Aztec burial site, found just near the center of Tlalpan, at the Pontifical University of Mexico. According to National Geographic, the ancient skeletons were discovered under a building that used to house classrooms, a small chapel, and dorms for priests.
This is the first time archaeologists have ever encountered this type of burial site. The bizarre pattern in which the skeletons have been arranged suggests the bodies were meticulously put to rest in some sort of ritualistic burial practice.
The 10 skeletons — among which the INAH so far has confirmed two females, a male, a child, and an infant — were discovered displayed in a circle and arranged lying on the side, with their arms intertwined. Moreover, the spiral formation is centered around a concentric point, which resembles the shape of a wheel. This warrants the interpretation that the skeletons are arranged around a central figure, Gizmodo notes.
“There was one individual over the other, for example: The head of the individual on the chest of the other, the hands of one individual under the other’s back, the baby on the body of another,” Jimena Rivera Escamilla, who runs the Project of Excavation and Archaeological Salvage at the Pontifical University of Mexico, said in a statement for the Mexican website Noticieros Televisa.
In her opinion, the way the 10 bodies were arranged indicates they were related. At the same time, Rivera told the local news outlet the unusual display of bones has never been seen before by Mexican archaeologists.
“We believe that it could be some interpretation of life, because individuals have different ages: There is a baby, a child, an infant, some young adults, adults, and an older adult,” Escamilla remarked.
Aside from the peculiar pattern in which the skeletons were displayed, the INAH archaeologists also came across signs of cranial deformation in at least two of the bodies. In addition, a preliminary analysis revealed some of the skeletons had intentionally deformed teeth.
Inside the pre-Aztec grave, the researchers uncovered clay pots known as “cajetes,” and rounded bowls called “tecomates,” with small circular openings. The pottery was found scattered among the 2,400-year-old bones.
The Mexican archaeologists who made the discovery placed the burial site in Mexico’s Pre-Classical period, before the rise of the Aztec Empire. The researchers have not yet established whether the 10 people buried in the ancient grave died of natural causes, were murdered, or perished in a calamity that affected the entire group.
According to Escamilla, the human settlement that may have built the ancient grave was likely made up of hunter-gatherers, and their village would have endured for about 500 years.