People visit the Altar of the sculpted skulls, on November 1, 2023, in the archaeological zone of Cholula, state of Puebla (Mexico). EFE/Hilda Ríos

Thousand-year-old pre-Hispanic tomb opens for Day of the Dead in Mexico

Puebla, Mexico, Nov 2 (EFE). – The Pyramid of Cholula, considered the largest pyramidal base in the world, opened for this year’s Day of the Dead the “Altar of Sculptured Skulls,” an archaeological tomb nearly a thousand years old that contains the remains of an indigenous couple in which visitors placed a pre-Hispanic offering.

This part of the pyramid was first explored in 1931 by Mexican archaeologist Eduardo Noguera, who cleared the courtyard, exposing staircases on two sides and revealing the miniature pyramid altar in the center.

The area has limited access, but was opened due to the importance of the Day of the Dead, which this year celebrated its 20th anniversary of being declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

People visit the “Altar of the sculpted skulls”, on November 1, 2023, in the archaeological zone of Cholula, state of Puebla (Mexico) EFE/Hilda Ríos

At the archaeological site in the municipality of San Pedro Cholula, in the central state of Puebla, archaeologists and visitors placed pre-Hispanic offerings made with corn, herbs, seeds, pan de sal (salt bread) and incense.

To commemorate the date, the altar was surrounded by cempasúchiles, marigold flowers, that according to Mexican culture, attract the souls of people buried in the area.

Among the offerings were chiktok, made from seeds, cactus and edible herbs; nacatltlale, or meat tamales; itzmi, or purslane; and tzoalli, a mixture historically prepared with seeds and black maguey honey that Spanish conquistadors believed contained human blood.

The site is also known as the “miniature temple” because in a space of less than 50 meters there are two skeletons in a bent position, covered with mud and stucco, on an altar or low platform known as a momoxgli.

Photograph of the interior of the “Altar of the Sculptured Skulls”, on November 1, 2023, in the archaeological zone of Cholula, state of Puebla (Mexico). EFE/Hilda Ríos

According to archaeologists, one set of remains belonged to a woman who had as offerings two comales, three pots, a spinning wheel, two bone needles and a small copper pin.

The other belonged to a man and contains offerings such as a ceramic vessel, a whistling glass, obsidian arrowheads, a dog’s jaw, and a bone fragment with lateral notches called omichicahuiztli.

The remains are believed to belong to a romantic couple who died of old age between the 10th and 11th centuries.

“They must be a duality, a couple, man and woman, only in that time there was no concept of husband and wife, because they were not bound, they were together, they dualized, they balanced each other,” Arturo Ramírez Molina, national secretary of education and training of the National Council of Peoples, Indigenous Communities and Afro-descendants explained to EFE.

The expert shared that they have been trying to show visitors this area that is “of the people,” so they have approached the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) so that this activity could be carried out every Day of the Dead.

“It is not open to the public, it was a management that was carried out by the National Council of Indigenous Peoples and INAH employees who have the desire to show everything to the general public,” he commented. EFE ggg/mcd/ics