The Pyramid of the Moon

Teotihuacan, Mexico - Archaeologists have found a human skeleton and many artifacts inside the Pyramid of the Moon, once the biggest ceremonial center of pre-Colombian Mexico. The skeleton was discovered in a structure buried by the later construction of the pyramid, which served as a platform for a high altar -- not as a tomb in the Egyptian style. The excavations since June showed that the step-type pyramids, made most of tamped earth, loose rocks and an outer layer of mortared stone, may have been built over an earlier civilization before the mysterious Teotihuacanos.

"It could be very important, once we find out more,’’ Saburu Sugiyama, a Japanese-born archaeologist from Arizona State University, said Tuesday. “The skeleton -bones, but in a very good condition- was found buried in a sitting position, facing south.’’ Sugiyama said the skeleton is still half buried. Its gender and age have not been determined, but he estimated it could date to 100 A.D. to 150 A.D.

“It must have belonged to somebody important, because of the amount and quality of funeral offerings surrounding it,’’ he said. Around 150 artifacts have been found in the tomb - figurines, ceramics, statuettes, jade carvings, and obsidian. The obsidian objects included arrow and spear heads and very finely ground, small obsidian knives that could have been used to sew cloth.

Sugiyama is one of an international team of archeologists exploring and mapping the pyramid. Involved are the University of Tokyo, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and the University of the Americas in Mexico and the National Institute of History and Anthropology. They are also financing the project jointly, together with the National Science Foundation of the United States, Ruben Cabrera Castro, coordinator of the project, told a news conference. Sugiyama said the tomb was discovered by accident about 10 days ago. The team is digging low tunnels at the bottom of the pyramid from north to south and from west to east to find out what is inside the structure.

The Pyramid of the Moon is located at the upper end of the Avenue of the Dead, which runs north-to-south in Teotihuacan. Further south, on the eastern edge the avenue, is the much taller Pyramid of the Sun. And at the lower tip of the avenue is the temple of Quetzalcoatl, the sacred plumed serpent. To one side of it, decorated with elaborate stone carvings, is a cluster of low buildings known as the “Great Complex.’’

Teotihuacan, in the valley of the same name 30 miles north of Mexico City, was a thriving city and ceremonial center that predated the Aztecs by several centuries. But very little is known about it. Investigators have found the pyramids and buildings close by, artifacts, a few pictographs, but no hieroglyphs or other writings of any kind. Teotihuacan began declining sharply around 650 AD, and was completely deserted by around 750 AD. No one yet knows why.