Mexico Aztec god carving may be emperor's headstone

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Archeologists say a giant, ornate carving of an Aztec god recently unveiled in downtown Mexico City could be a massive headstone in honor of one of the civilization’s last rulers.

Scientists say the 12.4 ton stone cutting, which is covered with a vast, heavily detailed full-body engraving of earth god Tlaltecuhtli, is one of the most important Aztec finds ever.

The 11-foot long monolith was first made public in October. It is broken into several pieces but otherwise in excellent condition, archeologists said.

They have spent weeks scraping dirt and debris from the piece and now say it may be the headstone of Ahuizotl, the eighth Aztec ruler, whose successor Moctezuma II governed at the start of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

The headstone is decorated with the carved image of a deity with a giant male head ringed by masses of curly hair and a sharp extended tongue representing a stream of blood.

Skulls and crossed bones surround the body, as well as a rabbit and several dots thought to be a time stamp dating the sculpture to 1502.

The Aztecs, a warlike and deeply religious people who built numerous monumental works including towering pyramids, ruled an empire encompassing much of modern-day central Mexico until they were overthrown by the Spanish in 1521.

The piece was found in the ruins of Mexico City’s Templo Mayor, an Aztec temple used for human sacrifice and now steps from choking traffic in the city’s Spanish colonial center.

Spanish conquerors built a new city from the rubble of Tenochtitlan, the sprawling Aztec capital they found built on largely man-made islands amid a lake in the Valley of Mexico.