A gold bar found in a Mexico City park in 1981 was part of the Aztec treasure looted by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquerors 500 years ago, according to a new study.
The 1.93 kg bar was found by a construction worker while excavating a new building along the Alameda, a picturesque park in the heart of the Mexican capital.
For 39 years, its origins have remained a mystery.
But thanks to specialized radiographs, the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico (INAH) claims to have now confirmed where the bar comes from: the hasty, albeit temporary, withdrawal of the Spaniards during the so-called “Noche Triste”, or “Night sad’.
That night, on June 30, 1520, the Aztecs, furious at the massacre of their nobles and priests, drove the Spanish invaders out of their capital, Tenochtitlan.
The conquerors escaped with all the looted Aztec treasure they could carry, apparently including the gold bar in question.
“The so-called ‘Noche Triste’ is among the episodes of the conquest that will be remembered this year, and there is only one material proof from it: a gold ingot sunk 500 years ago in the channels of Tenochtitlan, and which recent analysis confirms it comes from the flight (of the Spaniards), “INAH said in a statement.
Cortes and his men received a warm welcome from the Aztec emperor Moctezuma when they arrived in 1519, but soon became unwanted guests in the palace as they appropriated his treasure and turned it into a virtual hostage.
In June 1520, Cortes – who had launched his expedition to Mexico without official authorization – learned that the Spanish governor in Cuba had sent a group of soldiers to arrest him.
He left Lieutenant Pedro de Alvarado in charge of Tenochtitlan and went with a part of his army to fight the arriving soldiers, defeating them eventually.
As he disappeared, however, Alvarado began to fear that the Aztecs would attack him and that their nobles and priests had been killed.
The Aztecs rebelled and the Spaniards withdrew – apparently losing the gold bar along the way.
The study found that the composition of the bar corresponded to that of other Aztec pieces from the period.
“This bar is a key piece in the puzzle of this historic event,” said INAH.
© Agence France-Presse