Just a few months after the commemoration in Mexico of the 500 years of the so-called «Sad Night», studies carried out with advanced technology have confirmed that a golden yew found in 1981 is a vestige of the famous flight of Hernán Cortés and his men from Tenochtitlan undertaken on June 30, 1520.
The metal bar was found on March 13, 1981 north of the Alameda Central in Mexico City, in a place that corresponds to the route of the escape of Cortes, and its characteristics coincide with those referred to in historical sources, but still thus, new studies were estimated to authenticate it.
The director of the Templo Mayor Project of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) of Mexico, Leonardo López Luján, explained that since the mid-1970s systematic studies of the chemical composition of several archaeological collections have been carried out, «emphasizing its relative percentage content of gold, silver and copper ».
Compared to that of other Mesoamerican areas such as the Maya (objects extracted from the Sacred Cenote of Chichen Itza), or the Mixtec (Central Valleys), the gold pieces recovered in the excavations of the Templo Mayor have the lowest percentages of copper.
To study the “golden yew”, López Luján said that with the help of Dr. José Luis Ruvalcaba, from the Institute of Physics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a portable equipment equipped with X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) was used ), “A proven multielemental technique of high sensitivity, non-destructive, non-invasive and extremely fast”.
In recent dates, they made 23 XRF readings in different regions of this piece and, as a consequence, they discovered that “it is very chemically homogeneous,” with an average composition of 76.2% gold, 20.8% silver and 3% coppermade. “If these values are compared with those recorded in the graph of Mesoamerican geographical areas of use, we will realize that the ingot is located within the group of pieces recovered by the Templo Mayor Project,” said Dr. López Luján in a statement from INAH.
“More interesting is that it is perfectly located in the region occupied by our later pieces, those of stage VI (1486-1502 AD), and particularly those found around the monolith of the goddess Tlaltecuhtli, as is the case with Offerings 122, 123,125 and 149. The foregoing is significant, since the ingot would have been cast between 1519 and 1520 AD, ”he explained.
The ingot, of 1.93 kilos, was discovered in mid-1981 during the construction of the Central Bank (Bancen) in the vicinity of Avenida Hidalgo, which today corresponds to the land where the Tax Administration System is based. One of the workers, Francisco Bautista, found it at 4.8 meters deep and was in charge of delivering it to the archaeologists.
The location of the finding was consistent with the path followed by Cortes and his men in the “Sad Night” that caused significant casualties of Spaniards, Tlaxcaltecas and Huejotzincas at the hands of Tenochcas. The “golden yew” sank in the Toltecaacaloco canal, being buried in its bed, until it was discovered almost 460 years later.
López Luján stressed that this ingot is a “key” piece in the puzzle of that historical event, as it coincides with the description that Bernal Díaz del Castillo made of the “golden yews” that were obtained from the founding of the “Treasure of the ancestors of Moctezuma ».
“Bernal says that the yews were three fingers wide, equivalent to 5.4 centimeters, and even if they don’t believe it, that measures the ingot found in 1981,” said the archaeologist.
Also, in the Florentine Codex it is established and illustrated that, once the revenge was consummated, the Mexicans returned to the canals to search for the expelled objects and it is curious that one of them appears carrying a sword in his right hand and a «gold barret ” on the left.
The piece was prepared between November 1519 and June 1520, by the “silversmiths” of Moctezuma who resided in Azcapotzalco, under the supervision and standards of the Spanish conquerors. It was made in the Casas Viejas de Axayácatl, melting «a set of Mexican jewelery and badges, at a temperature of 950 ° C.
«The molten Mexican pieces would come from the ‘Treasure of the ancestors of Moctezuma’, found by the Spaniards in Teucalco (Casas Viejas de Axayácatl) or, perhaps, the gold obtained as war spoils in the royal warehouses of Petlacalco, the armories of the Tlacochcalco or the artisan workshops of Totocalli, ”López Luján said before pointing out that the“ golden yew ”is exhibited today at the National Museum of Anthropology“ as a dramatic material witness of the Spanish Conquest and unique archaeological testimony of the so-called Sad Night ” . .