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OMG! Mexican archaeologists make “history-changing” discoveries near Aztec temple overlooking Tepoztlan

OMG! Mexican archaeologists make “history-changing” discoveries near Aztec temple overlooking Tepoztlan


You will be astonished to learn its connection to the Georgia Gold Belt and the Bronze Age in Northwest Europe.

There is a controversy raging now in Mexico because some INAH archaeologists tried to conceal the discovery of a previously unknown and VERY DIFFERENT ancient culture in the Tepotzalan Valley, whose chronology dates to the early days of Mesoamerican civilization.

View of Tepoztlan from the trail up the Tepozteco Escarpment

Tepoztlan, Morelos is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously occupied towns in the Americas.  It is known for its many colonial period churchs, beautiful homes and massive Poinsettia (Nochebuena) Trees that bloom during December and early January.  Tepoztlan currently has a population of a little over 14,000, while its urbanized are contains a population of over 41,000. 

The Tepozteco Pyramid, overlooking Tepoztlan, is one of the most “spiritual” places in the Americas.  Reaching the archaeological site requires an arduous climb up cliffs and ravines, created eons ago when  a massive lava flow from the volcano stopped. After conquering the city states that now compose the Mexican state of Morelos,  the Aztecs constructed this unusual pyramidal temple at a remote location, perched on the cliffs, where indigenous peoples had long worshiped.  However, the sacred zone went through several stages of improvements before reaching its current appearance.  These changes will be discussed later in the article. 

Among the traditions of several Mexican indigenous peoples, the god Quetzacoatl or Kulkulkan in Maya, was born or else “first appeared” in Tepotztlan. In the tradition of the Mexica (Aztecs), Cē Ācatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl  (Lord One-River Cane Feathered Serpent in the Nahuatl language) the founding ruler of the second city, named Tula, was born in Tepotztlan in 895 AD.  He died somewhere in the Americas in 947 AD.  This man was not Nahuatl, and so would have been named the equivalent of these Aztec words it either the Totonac, Toltec or Itza Maya languages.

Region near Tepoztlan, Cuernavaca, Mexico City and Teotihuacan

Terrain map of the Tepoztlan Valley. Note the birthplace of King Quetzalcoatl on the eastern end.


Tepoztlán is derived from the Nahuatl Language and means “place of abundant copper.”   Tepozteco is derived from the Nahuatl Language word Tepoztecatl, which means “Copper – Place of Sacrifice ,” but actually became the name for the Aztec god of alcoholic beverages, in particular,  pulque and corn beer.

Tula is the Totonac word for town, which was derived from the word for river cane.   The real name of Teotihuacan was Tula or “Place of the River Cane.”   It is a fact known to the Creek People that wherever River Cane thrives, so does also corn.   During the 500 year rule of the Itza by the Totonacs,  tula also became the Itza word for town.  It ultimately became the Itsate Creek word for town.  Etowah Mounds was really named E-tula, which means Principal Town in Itsate and Itza Maya. Among Muskogee-Creek speakers this word evolved to Etalwa.

View of the pyramid from the final approach of the trail

The archaeological record

The oldest known pottery in the region dates from around 1500 BC or later.  However, there was a village at the site of Tepoztlan at least 1000 years earlier.  At the present time, the official position of the archaeological profession is that the ethnic identity of the original occupants of Tepoztlan are unknown as are those, who later built a large town on the site and developed the Tepozteco Shrine on the nearby escarpment.

Closer view of the pyramid

Near the Aztec Tepozteco temple is a earthen mound, constructed during the Middle Formative Period (c. 1200-1150 BC) that functioned as a shrine, which drew pilgrims from all parts of Mesoamerica.   It was dedicated to the Copper God, who was worshiped by the consumption of fermented alcoholic beverages.  That date of 1200 BC also corresponds to the primitive maize pollen found in a lake in southern Alabama and in the vicinity of Fort Center Mounds in southwestern Florida, near Lake Okeechobee.  Apparently, at this time people in the Caribbean Basin began to be doing much more traveling across the ocean waves.

There is other significance to this time period.  It corresponds to the collapse of Bronze Age civilizations in the Mediterranean Basin, but also a massive tsunami that struck southern Scandinavia, covering Denmark with water and destroying the civilization, which created the famous Bronze Age petroglyphs of the region.  Something incredibly catastrophic happened in the North Atlantic Ocean or North Sea during that period.

Until recently Mexican archaeologists assumed that the pyramid was rather young by Mexican standards.  In the ruins of the temple were found two fallen stones with glyphs.  One of these stones bears the name of the eighth Aztec emperor Ahuizotl.  The other portrayed the calendar date, “10 rabbit”. This date represents the year 1502 A.D., the year that this emperor died. From such information, some archeologists concluded that this was the year in which the temple was built.  Other scholars speculated that these stones were added later to commemorate the death of this Aztec emperor. 

In 2015,  archaeologists with the Institutio Nacional de Antropologia E Historia (INAH) discovered the foundation (basamento) of the Aztec pyramid was not built by the Aztecs, but by the very different Xochicalco Civilization, which began in the Formative Period, but rose to prominence after the collapse of Teotihuacan around 600 AD.  Around 650 AD a band of Maya merchants arrived at the Xochicalco site and developed a fortified town on the mountain top.  Xochicalco was sacked and burned by Chichimecs around 900 AD.  The region was then occupied by Nahua-speaking Tlahuica Peoples, who live in the region today.

The temple itself stands at the western side of the site. It consists of a 20 feet-high platform,  supporting a 10 feet tall temple base. Upon this stand the remains of the temple building, the remains of which now stand eight feet high.

The temple contained two rooms.  This is the first example of a twin temple pyramid, which later was adopted by the Aztecs for their great double temple pyramid in Tenochtitlan.  What can’t be explained right now is the fact that double temples on single pyramids appeared around 1025 AD at Hiwassee Island, Tennessee, four centuries before they appeared in Tenochtitlan.  This architectural tradition continued among the Creeks until the mid-1700s.  Did some ancestors of the Creeks immigrate out of Morelos, when it was conquered by the Aztecs.  We don’t know!

The first room opened onto the temple stairs, with two pillars flanking the entrance. In the center of this room a small hollow was found, containing traces of charcoal and copal.  The entry to the small inner sanctum was also flanked by two pillars. The sculpture of Tepoztecatl was probably kept in this room.

View looking down at Tepozteco Temple

While widening a highway that will run along the  lower elevations of the Tepoztecatl Escarpment,  engineers discovered large areas of agricultural terraces, which had been concealed by the dense forests.  It was already known that there were some terraces with houses for priests and retainers near the pyramid.   LIDAR analysis has revealed that there are many agricultural terraces with terraces on the sides of the escarpment.  Their current appearance is almost identical to the stone terrace complexes in northern and west-central Georgia.  Initial radiocarbon dates have revealed that the terraces long predate the arrival of Aztec conquerors and may have not even been cultivated at the time of the Aztec Civilization.  The terraces probably were used to cultivate grains and/or agave to make fermented beverages. 

The pyramid from across the ravine

Our research in the People of One Fire has found that beans and amaranth thrive in the well-drained soil of stone-walled terraces.  Georgia gardeners have also discovered that agave, although assumed to be a tropical plant, native to the mountains of Mexico, also thrives in stone or wood-walled terraces up to the sides of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It seems that chronically damp soils are the main deterrent to healthy agave, not the generally moderate winters of the Lower Southeast. 

This leads us to the possibility that Mesoamericans introduced agave to the Southeast and cultivated in terrace complexes until the Little Ice Age brought extreme Midwestern type winters to the region for over two centuries.  The youngest radiocarbon date at the Track Rock Gap terrace complex, high in the Georgia Mountains, was 1500 AD, while more southerly terrace complexes seemed to have been occupied into the 1700s.

As can be seen in one of the videos below (INAH destruye el patrimonio cultural de Tepoztlan ~ INAH destroys the cultural heritage of Tepoztlan), certain INAH archaeologists decided to erase evidence of the people, who built the agricultural terraces, because their houses and artifacts did not look like contemporary indigenous houses elsewhere in Mexico.  Excavations were taken down to the lowest level of “civilization” where the archaeological evidence looked very similar to contemporary sites in the Valley of Mexico.   The producer of the video asked in Spanish, “What are they trying to hide?”    Well, INAH just publicized another discovery near Tepoztlan, that they will find difficult to explain with their current understanding of Mesoamerican history.   You will learn about it below.


Near visible light infrared image of Teotihuacan and Cerro Gordo – rotated 75 degrees

Near visible light infrared image of Cerro Gordo, showing hundreds of agricultural terraces

The agricultural terraces overlooking Teotihuacan

On the third day of my study of Teotihuacan, during my fellowship in Mexico, I had the bizarre urge to climb up the slopes of an extinct volcano, Cerro Gordo, which frames all photos of the Pyramid of the Moon.  Apparently, no Mexican or Gringo archaeologist had ever thought of doing this.   I immediately encountered a legion of ancient agricultural terraces.  At the top of the mountain were the ruins of a massive stone wall, which raised the water level inside the extinct volcano’s crater.   I even found the stone gates and ruins of an aqueduct, where the volume of water coming down the slopes to Teotihuacan could be regulated.  I also found the scene of a horrific battle next to the water basin.  Thousands of obsidian atlatl points and Mesoamerican sword blades littered the ground.

Ruins of stone steps and aqueduct on Cerro Gordo – recent INAH photo

There are few trees on the slopes of Cerro Gordo, so the terraces are easily viewed by infrared satellite imagery . . . unlike the situation at Tepoztlan and in Georgia, where trees conceal many terraces.   However, until a couple of years ago, the archaeological profession seemed totally unaware of the terraces and ancient water basin that made a city of 100,000 in the valley below possible.  Gringo archaeologists recently discovered agricultural terraces on the much, much smaller Cerro San Lorenzo to the east of Teotihuacan.  Their professional paper made no mention of the Cerro Gordo terraces, which cover an area perhaps 50 times as large.

At the next brown bag lunch in the office of Dr. Román Piña Chán, Director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, I gave a slide show on Teotihuacan to Dr. Piña Chán and his select group of staff and graduate students.   Everyone was astonished at the images of Teotihuacan from atop Cerro Gordo.  No one had ever considered Cerro Gordo being a part of the city’s development. 

Readers should be reminded that Google Maps were just becoming known in 2012, when we went through the Track Rock Gap controversy.   At the time of my fellowship,  high resolution satellite imagery was not available to the general public and was considered to be military top secret.  I saw my first high resolution infrared image from the USGS headquarters in Reston, VA in 1988.  It was being used by the National Park Service to analyze the Toms Brook Civil War Battlefield on my farm.  I had to get a special endorsement from the National Park Service to obtain infrared imagery of other colonial farms that I was working on.   Even by the mid-1990s, when President Clinton was loosening up the restrictions enacted during Desert Storm,  the satellite imagery used in GIS systems in government agencies was blurred for anything smaller than a city block.

I showed them images of stone ruins on the side of the mountain and then Alejandra, Piña Chán’s personal graduate assistant, translated my description of the agricultural terraces and their implications for feeding Teotihuacan.  There was barely a response!   What is this thing about archaeologists and terrace complexes?  LOL

Have we seen those petroglyhs before?

INAH recently announced the discovery of rock carvings that are very unusual for Mexico in the vicinity of the Tepozteco Pyramid.  The short video does not give an exact location.  The spokesperson stated that archaeologists believe that the carvings were made by the ethnic group who first constructed the Tepozteco Shrine around 1200-1150 BC.  The news announcement suggested that there were more boulders like this elsewhere in the Tepozteco Mountain Range.  She did mention that they were thought to be very unusual for Mexico, but did not say where else these types of petroglyphic boulders are found in abundance . . .  northern Georgia, southwestern Ireland, Galicia in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Sweden.  Bronze Age petroglyphic boulders in a mountain range, rich with copper.  Hm-m-m.

I could have told you that this was a soapstone petroglyphic boulder in my backyard, and you would have believe me.



Christmas Eve at a hacienda in Tepoztlan – magic!

An incredible Christmas season in Tepoztlan

Climbing up to the pyramid

In 1980, my friends Engineer Adofo de Huet and his wife, Ruth,  invited me and my former wife, to spend the Christmas holidays at their family’s hacienda in Tepoztlan.  Morelos was the homeland of the famous revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata, and was the first location in the New World to grow sugar cane commercially.   It was 2 1/2 weeks that are still very vivid in my mind.  The changing colors of the stone cliffs . . . the 400+ year old churches and buildings in Tepotzlan . . . the pageantry of Christmas in Mexico . . . the incredible spiritual feelings of climbing up the cliffs to the pyramid . . . a mariachi band performing for the family’s New Year’s Eve Party . . . visiting the oldest European building in the Americas (Cortez’s palace in Cuernavaca) . . . the night of disco dancing at the Hacienda Cocoyac . . . the estate of Cortez and his Native American wife.  The entire round dance floor turned like a vinyl record.  Today, the hacienda is a party mecca for the elite of Latin America.

One day, while exploring the hacienda, I looked over a wall and was astonished to see a pagan cemetery.   Adolfo told me that despite all the efforts of the Catholic Church for almost 500 years and the construction of some of Latin America’s most beautiful churches, Tepoztlan remained a major center for the old pagan religions of central Mexico.  Two days later I peaked over a wall and watched a pagan funeral.  Indigenous peoples, some wearing ancient style clothing, made offers to the gods as the woman’s body was lowered into the grave.  After her body was covered in dirt, they alternately drank sips of beer then poured some over the grave.  Small home-made pots with holes drilled in them were lain on the grave, along with some gardening tools.

On the other side of the hacienda, beyond the walls Indios were washing their clothes in a small creek.

I, of course, did not realize the full significance of all these experiences until I stumbled upon the INAH news release on Youtube the night after the August 4th birthday Ole Fashion Jawja Barbecue, jointly given by Elissa Heyman and me. We are both August 4th babes.  So are Billy Bob Thornton and Barrack Obama, but for unknown reasons, they didn’t show up.

View of the escarpment from a church tower in Tepoztlan


How about them thar apples?    My birthday gift to y’all!





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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    Richard, That ancient site aligns with the big island of Hawaii. Exactly on the 19.000 N latitude…noted as seen by some of the first Euro’s of the 15th century were tall red haired people in West Mexico. Perhaps they had been forced out by the Aztecs (Mexica), Maya or Itza to West Mexico…likely Polynesians among them red haired people. The Native people of Hawaii also made terraces very like the Itza Maya and what you have discovered in Georgia and Alabama. The West coast Native peoples of this landmass did advance to make “flat plank” ships to include the area of Mexico. Did any of the peoples of Mexico make Totem poles? More likely that the Polynesians traveled West from India to the Americas first then into Pacific? Thanks for your articles.


      Richard, Clearly the same types of stone and wood artifacts are found among the Western side of the US, Canada, Peru (Para), Chile and Colombia as found in the Pacific islands peoples. Based on DNA data some of the Polynesians are related to the Indus valley peoples that had “moon eyes, gray eyes” as passed down from the Native Elders lore in the South. That indicates a more ancient connection to South America than the US with the Indus valley peoples. When they arrived to Chile, Peru, Columbia and some migrated North is still unknown but there are Native lore of these peoples still living in Mexico when the Mexica (Aztecs) arrive to central Mexico in the 13th century. I would be very surprised if some of the taller Native peoples of the US are not related to them. The Polynesians (Indus valley peoples) were highly advanced in Sea fairing and built Catamarans as found in Florida and Ireland. No wonder the Mexicans academics think the Polynesians lived in Western Mexico?


        Mark– I’m interested in a number of aspects of your comment, particularly the catamarans. I found confirmation of the Tamil of India having catamarans as early as the 5th century AD. It would be very handy for me to have evidence of catamarans in ancient Florida and Ireland, can you post some links? Thanks. Jess


    I have found several terraces in north east Georgia along the chatoga river that may be from an earlier period. I can guide you to them if you have time.

    • Are they in Elbert County? My mother was from there. Several of my family members would be interested in seeing them. There were formerly many mixed blood Creek families in Elbert between Elberton and Ruckers Bottoms.


    Happy Birthweek Richard! Thanks for the presents.

    Interesting about the INAH destruye. There’s a lot of this suspicious stuff going on around the world: artifacts locked away (I tried to see university collections of Native American artifacts in both South and North Carolina and was refused both times), ancient ruins buried beneath artificial lakes, cave art left unprotected in one part of a country where it is carefully guarded in another, outdoor rock art left with virtually no protection that is being cut out and hauled away by thieves, requests to research areas denied, artifacts altered, artifacts “lost”, fake artifacts planted (as you’ve reported), etc. The truth may being slowed down but my money is on the truth getting out. Clovis First is pretty much a goner at this point. Hopefully more false narrative to fall soon.


    A Happy Belated Birthday to you Richard. I am very thankful as I am sure many of your readers are that you were born when and where you were. Along with all of your fantastic life experiences that have assisted in the research and true facts that you have graced us with in the articles you have written over these past years as editor of POOF. I wish you many more Truth Finding Years.


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