Saturday, February 24, 2018


Nahualac with Tetzacualco,, public domain.

On the volcanic slopes below the Mexican volcano Iztaccihuatl, in a pond known as Nahualac, a geoglyph replicating the monster out of which the earth was created has been discovered. This geoglyph is believed to represent the earth monster Tetzacualco. "The "Tetzacualco" (a name that can mean "stone enclosure") has been known to explorers since the 16th century. Since that time, both amateur explorers and professional archaeologists have investigated the structure, putting forth a variety of ideas as to what the structure was used for and when it was built. Made of numerous stones, it's about 37.7 x 32.2 feet (11.5 x 9.8 meters)." (Jarus 2018)

Replica of the Aztec Cosmos,
(seen in drained Nahualac),
public domain.

It is possible that the construction was intended as a symbolic representation of Cipactli from the Aztec creation myth. "The site, known as "Nahualac", is at least 1,000 years old, judging from ceramic materials. Some of them have been identified as belonging to the Coyotlateko (750-900 AD), Mazapa (850-900 AD) and Tollan Complex (900-1150 AD) cultures. Archaeologists at the National Institute of Anthropology and History led by Iris del Rocio Hernandez Bautista believe that the site was designed to depict Meso-American myths about the creation of the universe. Namely, it's believed the earth monster Cipactli floated on primeval waters and then split itself, thus creating the heavens and earth. Archaeologists claim that the stone shrine, called a "tetzacualco", emulates this myth due to its positioning. According to them, the way it was placed made the stone shrine look like it was floating on the water surface, fitting with the myth. The Mesoamericans likely used a ritual control of water from nearby springs to irrigate the pond and create the visual effect." (Puiu 2018)
Skull and plants above Cipactli,
blue-green paint. Andrea Stone,
Images from the Underworld,
1995, p.55.

Cipactli was theriomorphic, sometimes appearing in human form, but often having features of a crocodilian, toad, or turtle, or combination of them. These are all water creatures and the Aztecs believed that the earth floated upon a great body of water. To the Aztecs Cipactli represented the plane of the earth, or great, gaping jaws entering into the earth. (Stone 1995:22) Indeed, the shape of this tetzacualco could be taken for great, gaping jaws opening into the earth. The water of the pond was controlled by drainage ditches which could be used to raise or lower the water level. I can imagine a ceremonial public gathering with the open gaping maw of cipactli emerging from the water surface at a significant moment. It must have been very impressive, indeed it would still be.

The creation of this structure is somewhat mysterious. "The artifacts that the archaeologists recovered indicate that the structure was created at least three centuries before the Aztecs by an even earlier Mesoamerican culture whose identity is not yet clear, according to the statement from the research team." (Jarus 2018)

Nahualac with Tetzacualco submerged on
left, Aerial-view.,
public domain.

"Nor is it clear how long Tetzacualco was used or what kind of ceremonies took place there. During the 16th century, Juan Bautista Pomar, a writer in Mexico who was of mixed Spanish and Native Mesoamerican descent, claimed that the Tetzacualco was in use up to that century and that children were sometimes sacrificed there." (Jarus 2018) There have not yet been any human remains found in excavations there so that latter statement is unproven, and may indeed have been Spanish propaganda. What we can be sure of is that subsequent peoples adapted their beliefs to it, and it to their beliefs, in the same way that we assume that the Aztecs saw Cipactli there.

NOTE: Images in this posting were retrieved from the internet after a search for public domain photographs. If any of these images are not intended to be public domain, I apologize, and will happily provide the picture credits if the owner will contact me with them. For further information on these reports you should read the originals at the sites listed below.


Jarus, Owen
2018 1,000-Year-Old Stone Structure in Mexico May Depict Creation of Earth, January 5, 2018, Live Science.

Puiu, Tibi
2018 Stone Shrine Discovered Inside Mexican Volcano Depicts Mythical Aztec Universe, January 4, 2018,

Stone, Andrea J.
1995 Images from the Underworld: Naj Tunich and the Tradition of Maya Cave Painting, University of Texas Press, Austin.

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