Robot Reveals Ancient Aztec Burial Chambers (Interview)

Archaeologists have used a robot to discover three burial chambers in the Temple of the Feathered Spirit, a pyramid located in the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan in Mexico.

Archaeologists used radar technology to find a mostly sealed-off tunnel adorned with mysterious symbols deep beneath the Teotihuacan pyramid in 2011. They expected to find a burial chamber at the end of the long tunnel, but the Tlaloc II robot instead stumbled upon three. The Tlaloc II robot operates like a Transformer in three separate stages: a lead vehicle that Gizmodo states looks like a "Mars Rover-esque contraption," a smaller robot that emerges to take infrared scans and a small video robot.

"There are two exciting aspects of this story: the potential for new information on this massive capital; and the use of nontraditional techniques and technology to conduct archaeology," Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Lisa Lucero told iTech Post.

Teotihuacan was built nearly 2,000 years ago and held over 125,000 residents, making it one of the biggest cities in the world at its height. However, the city was abandoned a few centuries later for reasons unknown. Little is known about the people who once inhabited the city. The Aztecs referred to it as "The Place Where Men Become Gods."

"Teotihuacan is an impressive site;" Lucero said, "while lots of work has been done there by international teams of archaeologists, little is known on the ethnicity of the majority of people. Archaeologists have excavated several barrios indicating an extensive trade system with partners from the Maya area, Oaxaca, and others. Each ethnic group lived in their own barrio and practiced their own cultural practices. Yet we don't know much about the people who built Teotihuacan. Nor do we know much about their political system. Unlike in other Mesoamerican cultures where the royal acropolis is hard to miss, you find several palace complexes at Teo. Nor is there much royal iconography like you find elsewhere."

It is believed by some that the new discovery could provide clues as to why, in fact,Teotihuacan was abandoned, along with whether or not the city had a ruler or monarch.

"If the chambers turn out to be Teo's rulers, that would be a major find indeed;" Lucero said, "some scholars have suggested a type of joint rulership (e.g. military, religious, economic elite groups); finding three chambers might lend support to this hypothesis, especially if the burials contain equal quantities of grave goods. Then again, it could be a royal tomb with retainers/family members/wives, etc."

A video of the Teotihuacan chambers will likely be revealed not too long from now, bringing us one step closer to knowing exactly what the burial chambers hold.

"Only time and excavations will tell," Lucero said.

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