The shrine was discovered at a location known as the Nahualac site, alongside organic remains, lapidaries, lithic materials, and ceramic fragments associated with the Aztec god of rain, lightning, and thunder, Tlaloc.
Aztec Stone Shrine: A Map Of The Universe
The National Institute of Anthropology and History referred to the structure as a tetzacualco, which are ancient astronomical observatories that were constructed on high mountain slopes. It was found at a height of almost 13,000 feet below the Iztaccihuatl volcano, the name of which translates to "white woman." The volcano is named so because its peaks remain covered in snow due to it being dormant.
"The existence of a tetzacualco in the middle of a natural pond and the optical effect that occurs when the water mirrors, from which it seems that the structure emanates, suggests that the place is the representation of a primeval time and space, a miniature model of the universe," INAH said in a statement.
Iris del Rocio Hernandez Bautista, an archaeologist from INAH's Subaquatic Archeology Subdirectorate, explained that in their creation myths, the Aztec believed that the world started without any land. The monster of the Earth, Cipactli, was floating on top of the ancient waters, and the earth and sky were created from his body.
Bautista thinks that the Aztec controlled the flow of water from springs nearby into the pond where the stone structure was located to make it look like the shrine was floating on water. The water then reflected the stone shrine's surroundings.
The "floating" stone is believed to have depicted Cipactli, which is sometimes described as a creature that resembled a crocodile with other physical features similar to fish and frogs.
What Else Is In The Nahualac Site?
There are two sections in the Nahualac site. The first section is where the pond with the tetzacualco were discovered, while the second section is located within a valley with several natural springs.
Archaeologists found ceramic materials at the surface of the second section, dating back to between 750 A.D. and 1150 A.D. and covering an area of about 300 meters by 100 meters.
The ceramic pieces are all associated with Tlaloc, who was believed by the Aztec to be a wrathful god capable of bringing about both floods and droughts.