Mexican archaeologists have found the first temple of the Flayed Lord, a pre-Hispanic fertility god depicted as a skinned human corpse.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the historic find was made during recent excavations of Popoloca Indian ruins in Puebla state.
Experts found two skull-like stone carvings, believed to be used to ‘plug’ holes where skins were placed following the rituals, and a stone statue depicting the god, Xipe Totec.
It had an extra hand dangling off one arm, suggesting the god was wearing the skin of a sacrificial victim.
Each of the stone skulls is approximately 70 centimeters tall and weighs about 200 kilograms, archaeologists say.
Priests worshipped Xipe Totec by skinning victims and then donning their skins.
The Popolocas built the temple between A.D. 1000 and 1260 and were later conquered by the Aztecs.
Depictions of the god had been found before in other cultures, but not a whole temple.
Two sacrificial altars, three stone sculptures and various architectural elements were uncovered in a pyramidal basement of the Archaeological Zone of in Puebla.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said it ‘confirms that this ancient city protects the first temple dedicated to this deity until now discovered in the country.’
Xipe Tótec (‘our lord the flayed’) was one of the most important gods of the pre-Hispanic era.
Its influence in the fertility, the regeneration of the agricultural cycles and the war, was recognized by numerous cultures of the West, Center and Gulf of Mexico.
The construction is located west of the Central Set of Ndachjian popoloca, meaning ‘water inside the pot’ or ‘within the hill’ and is 12 meters long by 3.5 high.
Shocked researchers uncovered the first of the sculptures, made of volcanic rock.
Lead archaeologist Noemi Castillo Tejero assisted by 35 workers, the specialists released the skull and, a short distance away, located a stucco cube decorated with red color, and the start of the staircase that gave access to the pyramidal base of a temple.
They then found another cube with red pigment, the second of the stone skulls and the sculpted torso of Xipe Tótec.
Archaeologist Luis Alberto Guerrero, recognized in the back of the figure a series of finishes that simulate the moorings of the skin with which Xipe Totec was dressed, and a skirt of feathers, unusual feature in the representations of this pre-Hispanic god.
‘It measures approximately 80 centimeters high and has a hole in the belly that was used, according to the sources, to place a green stone and ‘endow them with life’ for the ceremonies. ‘
Another detail is in the left arm, which has a right hand hung back.
The archaeologists said it is not a mistake of the maker, because it symbolizes the hand of the sacrificed person who ‘was hanging’ after the ritual skinning.
The researcher theorizes that although the two works represent a skinning, they would have been produced by different craftsmen given the contrasts in their features and minimal differences in size.
They were carved in volcanic stone possibly rhyolite, that is foreign to the region.
It is believed that although they were imported material, they were carved on site as they do not show
damage that they might have suffered during their transfer, taking into account the scarce means of transport of the time.