Lonely Planet Writer

An Aztec temple has been discovered hiding under a pyramid for 800 years

An Aztec temple hidden for more than eight centuries inside one of Mexico’s famous double pyramids has just been brought to light again.

A view of the Teopanzolco pyramid. Photo by DEA/G. Dagli Orti

The Teopanzolco pyramid, whose name means “in the old or abandoned temple”, is located just outside Cuernavaca, the capital of the southern state of Morelos, some 70km south of the country’s capital Mexico City. It was one of several buildings damaged during the 7.1 magnitude earthquake which struck the country in September 2017, and it was during a radar check for structural damage that the archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History found the hidden temple.

The city of Cuernavaca is the capital fo the southern Mexican state of Morelos. Photo by fitopardo.com

The archaeologists dated the 6m x 4m temple back to around the year 1150 AD and linked it to the Tlauhica civilisation, who also built the pyramid in the 13th century. They had a habit of building new structures over old ones and that’s why the temple remained hidden for so long. The Tlauhica would become part of the massive Aztec Empire in the 15th century before abandoning their temples when the Spanish arrived in one century later.

Archaeologists at work on the substructure under the pyramid. Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

The temple is dedicated to the Aztec deity Tlaloc, “he who makes things sprout”, the god of rain and hurricanes, floods and droughts and the overlord of the powerful element of water. His double nature and wrathful character made him both revered and feared among the other gods of the Aztec pantheon, and his cult is one of the oldest and most universal in ancient Mexico.

One of the columns of the hidden temple. Photo by Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Other than the foundations of the temple itself, the National Institute team also found an incense burner and some ceramic crockery as they continue their exploration in hope to uncover even more of the hidden temple.