Gold Bar Found in Mexico Belonged to Ancient Aztec Treasure

The Spanish looted the capital city of Tenochtitlan but were driven away by the Aztecs. The Spanish carried as much gold as they could carry.

A new scientific analysis of a large gold bar found several decades ago in the center of present-day Mexico City revealed that it was part of loot that the Spanish Conquistadores led by Hernan Cortes tried to take while fleeing from the Aztec capital—Tenochtitlan—after Aztec warriors forced a hasty withdrawal.

The origin of the gold bar, found by a worker during excavations for the construction of a building had remained in mystery for almost four decades.

However, a recent analysis yielded important clues to its origins.

X-ray fluorescence analysis performed by a group of experts presented evidence that the piece corresponds to the time and the characteristics of the gold that the Spaniards seized from the Aztecs, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reported in a statement.

“The characteristics of the gold bar (…) coincide quite precisely with those referred to in historical sources,” researchers revealed.

“This gold ingot is a key piece in the puzzle of that historical event because it coincides with the description that the Spanish conqueror Bernal Díaz del Castillo made of the so-called “tejos de oro” that were obtained from the treasure of Moctezuma,” INAH revealed.

The announcement came a few months before the 500th anniversary of the battle that forced Hernan Cortes and his soldiers to temporarily flee the city on June 30, 1520, in an episode known as “La Noche tristethe sad night.”

A day earlier, the Aztec emperor Moctezuma was killed, which unleashed a frantic battle that forced Cortes and his armies to flee for their lives.

Cortes managed to hide a few kilometers from Tenochtitlan and under a leafy tree known as the Montezuma bald cypress, eventually baptized as “the Tree of the Sad Night”, he cried the defeat of his troops before the Aztecs.

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A year later, Cortes would return and besiege the city, which was already weakened by the cut of supplies and the new diseases introduced by the Spanish invaders.

Model of the temple district of Tenochtitlan at the National Museum of Anthropology. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.
Model of the temple district of Tenochtitlan at the National Museum of Anthropology. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

The gold bar was originally discovered in 1981 about five meters beneath the surface in the center of Mexico City – built on the ruins of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan.

Tenochtitlan, also known as Mexica-Tenochtitlan was a large Mexica city-state in what is now the center of Mexico City. Built on an island in what was known as lake Texcoco, the majestic pyramid city was the capital of the ancient Aztecs in the 15th century.  The exact date the city of Tenochtitlan was founded remains a historical enigma, although scholars chose its foundation date as being March 13, 1325, in 1925, celebrating the 600th anniversary of the city.

For archaeologist Leonardo López Luján, who was in charge of this new investigation, the gold bar is a “dramatic material witness of the Spanish conquest and unique archaeological testimony of the so-called “Sad Night.”

The gold bar weighs approximately 2 kilograms and is 26.2 centimeters (cm) long, 5.4 cm wide and 1.4 cm thick.

Moctezuma’s treasure was never found.

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