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(Courtesy INAH)

Archaeologists working in a tunnel beneath Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Sun have unearthed two caches of artifacts that may have been meant to consecrate the massive building's construction around a.d. 200. The ancient city, which lies about 40 miles north of Mexico City, was once a major spiritual center with the Pyramid of the Sun as its largest monument. The research team, led by Alejandro Sarabia of Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History, expanded a tunnel that was originally excavated in the 1930s and dug additional tunnels out to the sides. The tunnels revealed a small artifact cache near the center of the pyramid and another larger cache about 125 feet away. The excavations also uncovered four sacrificial burials, three of them holding children, in different locations.

The cache at the center of the pyramid contained a pyrite and slate disk with a human figure made of obsidian placed on top of it. Projectile points as well as seashells and a few stone blades surrounded the figure. The larger cache comprised 11 clay pots dedicated to a rain god, obsidian and stone blades, projectile points, the bones of an eagle, and fragments of feline and canine skeletons. Among the most intriguing artifacts were three carved greenstone figurines that depict human beings and a greenstone mask similar to those found in the tombs of some especially wealthy Maya rulers. It was the first such mask to be found in a ritual setting at the site and does not appear to have been part of a grave.

The excavations also revealed that other buildings had stood on the site before the pyramid was built. The team happened upon the walls of three different buildings and another wall that may have surrounded a plaza or ceremonial space, providing some information about the early phases of construction at the site. Saburo Sugiyama of Arizona State University and Aichi Prefectural University in Japan, the archaeologist who directed the excavations, expects even more intriguing finds will be discovered beneath the pyramid. "There is a good chance of finding the tomb of a ruler in the next year or two," he says.