An Aztec map depicting the creation of the Universe was recently discovered under a lagoon beside a volcano near Mexico city. This stone structure is believed to be roughly 1,000 years old.
Cipactli, a mythical aquatic monster, is seen splitting heaven from Earth, bringing life into being. The tablet was placed in such a way that the image of the beast appears to be floating at the surface of the lagoon when water levels are low, rather than being seen underwater. Irrigation ditches fed water from natural springs to the area, making the optical illusion more pronounced. This appearance is consistent with the way the creature would have been described in ancient legends.
“The intention that water surround specific ritual architectural elements seems to have been an important part of Mesoamerican thought, we see it in Tenochtitlan, or in the Ciudadela, in Teotihuacan,” the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) reported in a press release, written in Spanish and translated by Google.
The Nahualac site is home to the Tetacualco – a stone enclosure measuring 32×38 feet – known to archeologists since the 16th century. Pottery and stone artifacts dating back 1,000 years were discovered around and within the ruin.
According to Meso-American legends, the Earth itself was created from the body of the beast, also known as Cipaqli, and sometimes described as a cross between a fish, frog, and crocodile.
A 16th century telling of the legend, translated by Henry Phillips Jr., reads that four gods “made the water and created in it a great fish similar to an alligator which they named Çipaqli, and from this fish they made the Earth.”
Although the tablet depicts an Aztec creation legend, Tetzacualco was constructed by an unknown culture which existed 300 years before the Aztec, who flourished between the years 1300 and 1500. Archaeologists are unsure how the temple was used, or why the structure was built. A report dating from the 16th Century claimed children were sacrificed once a year at the temple, in order to appease the rain god, Tlaloc.