500-years-old gold bar found in Mexico City was part of Moctezuma’s treasure|
The gold bar is 500 years old - Photo: Taken from INAH's website

500-years-old gold bar found in Mexico City was part of Moctezuma’s treasure

Mexico City
David Alire García, Clarence Fernández & Robert Birsel/REUTERS
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The bar was originally discovered in 1981 during a construction project in downtown Mexico City

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A new scientific analysis of a large gold bar found decades ago in downtown Mexico City reveals it was part of the plunder Spanish colonizers tried to carry away as they fled the Aztec capital after native warriors forced a hasty retreat.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) announced the findings of new tests of the bar in a statement on Thursday, a few months before the 500-year anniversary of the battle that forced Hernán Cortés and his soldiers to temporarily flee the city on June 30, 1520.

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A day earlier, Aztec Emperor Moctezuma was killed, or possibly assassinated, according to the native informants of Spanish chronicler Bernal Díaz del Bernal, which promoted a frenzied battle that forced Cortés, his fellow Spaniards, and their native allies to flee for their lives.

A year later, Cortés would return and lay siege to the city, which was already weakened with supply lines cut and diseases introduced by the Spanish invaders taking a toll.

The bar was originally discovered in 1981 during a construction project some 5 meters underground in downtown Mexico City - which was built on the ruins of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan - where a canal that would have been used by the fleeing Spaniards was once located.

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The bar weighs about 2 kg and is 26.2 cm long, 5.4 cm wide, and 1.4 cm thick.

A fluorescent X-ray chemical analysis was able to pinpoint its creation to between 1519-1520, according to INAH, which coincides with the time Cortés ordered gold objects stolen from an Aztec treasury to be melted down into bars for easier transport to Europe.

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Historical accounts describe Cortés and his men as heavily weighed down by the gold they hoped to take with them as they fled the imperial capital during what is known today as the “Sad Night,” or “Noche Triste,” in Spanish.

“The golden bar is a unique historical testimony to a transcendent moment in world history,” said archeologist Leonardo López Luján, who leads excavations at a nearby dig where the Aztecs’ holiest shrine once stood.

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Until the recent tests, scholars of the last gasps of the Aztec empire only had historical documents to rely on as confirmed sources, added López Luján.

A more in-depth and technical description of the tests performed on the bar is published in the January issue of the magazine Arqueología Mexicana.

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