Scientists from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a steam bath and other archaeological evidence of the way of life of the local Indians of the pre-Hispanic period in the historical part of Mexico City. A press release about the opening is posted on the institution's website.
In the XIV century, on the site of modern Mexico City, the city-state of Tenochtitlan grew - the future capital of the Aztec empire, located on an island in a salt lake. According to the researchers, this discovery allows to confirm the location of the most ancient part of Tenochtitlan - the Temazkaltitlan quarter, where many shrines and important cultural sites for the then townspeople were located.
Previously, that such baths existed in Temazkaltitlan was known from ancient documents: the find confirms their authenticity. The temazcal steam bath - or in the local language "Nahuatl" - scientists have dated to the XIV century. The domed structure is located near La Merced in Mexico City, under Talavera street. Temazcal was probably used for medicinal and spiritual purposes: archaeologists associate it with local female fertility cults and suggest that, in addition to various cleansing rites, childbirth could take place in it.
The researchers describe how it worked: Fueled by natural hot springs, the temazcal included a bath - a small pool of warm water and a bench to sit on. The structure is built of adobe blocks and lined with a volcanic rock known as tezontl. It was filled with steam from water, which was used in various rituals and ablutions. The structure was about five meters (16.5 feet) long and nearly three (9.8 feet) wide.
Local residents worshiped female deities here. Besides fertility, the cults, according to the press release, archaeologist Victor Esperon Kallech and his colleagues, likely included goddesses of purification and water. Interestingly, the inhabitants of Temazkaltitlan also worshiped deities associated with pulque, a pre-Hispanic alcoholic drink made from agave and other plants. It is known that the process of its manufacture was always surrounded by a large number of religious items.
In the document Crónica Mexicáyotl, Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc, a Nahua noble, described the Temazcal of Tenochtitlana, built for the purification rites of a noble Indian girl named Quetzalmoyahuazi, and the participation of the townspeople in these rites. The authors emphasize that the new discovery will help to get a better understanding of the spiritual and cultural significance of the Temazkaltitlan area and its ritual practices.
In the process of excavating and discovering the temascal, scientists also found the remains of buildings from later periods, showing the development of the area in the following centuries. Thus, in the 16th century, a house of an indigenous family of noble origin was built nearby - this is evidenced by the floors made of adobe blocks and the decorated walls. And in the 18th century, during the New Spain period, a tannery worked on this site. The university team hopes that active research will help build a more complete picture of the life of local residents and its changes over time, as well as fully restore the customs of pre-Hispanic times.