Robot Discovers Burial Chambers Under Ancient Temple

A robot the size of a lawnmower discovered three burial chambers under the ancient Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Mexico.

The temple, an ancient pyramid, is part of the archaeological site of Teotihuacan, a massive complex of temples and pyramids about 31 miles northeast of Mexico City.

The team expected to find just one chamber in the last section of the tunnel, which runs under the Temple of Quetzalcoatl. Instead, they discovered three. The chambers are believed to have been used by Teotihuacan’s rulers about 2,000 years ago for royal ceremonies or burials.

However, they are hidden with mud and rubble, making it so they haven’t been explored in modern times.

Enter Tlaloc II-TC. The three-foot-long robot was designed to drive through tight spaces. It was equipped with a video camera and mechanical arms to clear obstacles from its path.

Team leader Sergio Gomez previously stated that there was a “high possibility that in this place, in the central chamber, we can find the remains of those who ruled Teotihuacan.” The current project follows up an earlier exploration by Tlaloc I, performed in 2010.

The ancient city was once an influential part of the Mesoamerican culture. However, little is known about the city’s rulers as archaeologists have yet to find depictions of a ruler or any tomb of a monarch.

Archaeologists have already uncovered about 250 feet of the Quetzalcoatl tunnel, but 100 feet remains in the final section. The tunnel appears to be similar to the one that runs underneath Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Sun. After they complete robotic reconnaissance, archaeologists are expected to clear out the final section for exploration.

At one time, the city of Teotihuacan, built almost 2,000 years ago, had more than 125,000 residents. But what was once one of the largest cities in the world is now in ruin. It was abandoned several centuries later for reasons archaeologists have yet to discover. Archaeologists using radar technology first discovered the tunnel under the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in 2011.

The latest discovery of three burial chambers beneath the temple is not as surprising to scientists as it probably should be. The temple has already yielded several surprising finds including a mass burial pit inside the temple’s core. Discovered in the late 1980s, the pit contained the remains of about 200 warriors and their weapons. Most of the skeletons had their hands tied behind their backs, suggesting that they were sacrificed.

The city, built before the Aztecs rose to power, was called “The Place Where Men Became Gods” by the ancient race. Archaeologists hope that the three burial chambers beneath the ancient temple will yield evidence of a ruler or monarch from the long-abandoned city.

[Image via jschmeling]