Mass grave of the Aztec resistance found

Archaeologists excavating the ruins of a pyramid in downtown Mexico City have uncovered a mass grave which may contain the skeletal remains of some of the Aztec’s last holdouts against Cortez.

Cortez demolished this pyramid along with the rest of the Aztec city in 1521, but the skeletons buried there might have died or been killed later, perhaps during the period when Cortez left the city after razing it.

Archaeologist Salvador Guilliem, the leader of the excavation for Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, said the Indians might have been killed during Cortes’ war or during one of the uprisings that continued after the conquest.

Guilliem said many burials have been found at the site with the remains of Indians who died during epidemics that swept the Aztec capital in the years after the conquest and killed off much of the Indian population.

But those burials were mostly hurried, haphazard affairs in which remains were jumbled together in pits regardless of age or gender.

The burial reported Tuesday is different. The dead had many of the characteristics of warriors: All were young men, most were tall and several showed broken bones that had mended.

The men also were carefully buried Christian-style, lying on their backs with arms crossed over their chests, though many appear to have been wrapped up in large maguey cactus leaves, rather than placed in European coffins.

There is evidence of both Aztec burial rites on the site and Spanish elements. It’s a strange melange. Aztecs usually cremated their warriors, and the Spanish weren’t exactly prone to bury the locals with full honors.

We’ll hopefully come to know a little more about this mystery when the skeletons have been analyzed for cause and date of death.