Native American 14th century ‘sweat lodge’ discovered in Mexico City


Native American ‘sauna’ used by Aztecs to ‘purify their bodies’ ahead of child birth, spiritual rituals and medical treatment 600 years ago is discovered in Mexico City

  • The so-called sweat lodge is known as a ‘temazcal’ in the pre-Hispanic culture
  • It was unearthed at archaeological site in the the centre of Mexico City
  • Temazcals were used to purify the body and also worship female deities  

A native American sauna has been discovered in Mexico City dating back to the 14th century. 

The so-called ‘sweat lodge’ was found at an archaeological site in the neighbourhood of La Merced in Mexico City.

It is believed the room was used to purify the body of locals in various circumstances, including for medicinal purposes, religious rituals and child birth.    

Pictured: the temazcal found in Mexico City. Archaeologists discovered this pre-Hispanic sweat lodge used in religious ceremonies in Mexico City

Pictured: the temazcal found in Mexico City. Archaeologists discovered this pre-Hispanic sweat lodge used in religious ceremonies in Mexico City 

The sweat lodge (pictured) was found at an archaeological site in Mexico City

 The sweat lodge (pictured) was found at an archaeological site in Mexico City

It is believed the room was used by the Aztecs to purify the body in various circumstances, including for medicinal purposes, religious rituals and for child birth

It is believed the room was used by the Aztecs to purify the body in various circumstances, including for medicinal purposes, religious rituals and for child birth

The so-called 'sweat lodge' was found at an archaeological site in the neighbourhood of La Merced in Mexico City

The so-called ‘sweat lodge’ was found at an archaeological site in the neighbourhood of La Merced in Mexico City

According to the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the sweat lodge, known as a ‘temazcal’ in the pre-Hispanic culture, was part of the noble neighbourhood of Temazcaltitlan, in the Teopan area of the state of Tenochtitlan.  

A sweat lodge is a low profile hut where a purification ceremony was conducted which aimed to cleanse a person by inducing perspiration. 

The foundation of a colonial house and a tannery inhabited by people of the Mexica nobility between 1521 and 1620 AD were also found at the excavation site. 

‘The findings suggest that in the 16th Century this area was more populated than we initially thought,’ said Víctor Esperón Calleja, who led the excavation work, the BBC reports. 

Temazcals were used to purify the body after exertion such as after a battle and also for healing the sick, improving health and aiding in childbirth.  

The foundation of a colonial house and a tannery (pictured, the site) inhabited by people of the Mexica nobility between 1521 and 1620 AD were also found at the excavation site

The foundation of a colonial house and a tannery (pictured, the site) inhabited by people of the Mexica nobility between 1521 and 1620 AD were also found at the excavation site

According to the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the sweat lodge, known as a 'temazcal' in the pre-Hispanic culture, was part of the noble neighbourhood of Temazcaltitlan, in the Teopan area of the state of Tenochtitlan

According to the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the sweat lodge, known as a ‘temazcal’ in the pre-Hispanic culture, was part of the noble neighbourhood of Temazcaltitlan, in the Teopan area of the state of Tenochtitlan

Tenochtitlan was a large city-state inhabited by the Mexica, the indigenous people of the Valley of Mexico who ruled the Aztec Empire between 1428 and 1521 AD.

The city is believed to have been built on an island in what was then Lake Texococo in the Valley of Mexico.

Victor Esperon Calleja told local media: ‘The site is part of a protected area and that is why Archaeological Rescue Office of the INAH has intervened. 

‘Tenochtitlan was divided into four parts and we are in the part called Teopan in a neighbourhood called Temazcaltitlan where the sweat lodges were.’

The INAH has confirmed that the foundation of the temazcal is 16.4 feet (five metres) long and 9.7 feet (2.98 metres) wide with a bathtub and a bench inside its walls.  

According to historical records, a dame from the Mexican nobility called Quetzalmoyahuatzin bathed in the temazcal in a purifying ritual before giving birth.

Archaeologists believe the neighbourhood was used as an area for worshipping female deities such as Ixcuina, the goddess of the labour; Tlazolteotl the deity of vice, purification, steam baths and lust; and Ayopechtli the goddess of birth proper.

Other female deities related to fertility, the land or water were also worshipped such as Coatlicue, Toci, Chalchiuhtlicue and Mayahuel. 

According to historical records, a dame from the Mexican nobility called Quetzalmoyahuatzin bathed in the temazcal in a purifying ritual before giving birth. Pictured, the sweat lodge during excavation

According to historical records, a dame from the Mexican nobility called Quetzalmoyahuatzin bathed in the temazcal in a purifying ritual before giving birth. Pictured, the sweat lodge during excavation 

The INAH has confirmed that the foundation of the temazcal is 16.4 feet (five metres) long and 9.7 feet (2.98 metres) wide with a bathtub and a bench inside its walls

The INAH has confirmed that the foundation of the temazcal is 16.4 feet (five metres) long and 9.7 feet (2.98 metres) wide with a bathtub and a bench inside its walls

Archaeologists believe the neighbourhood was used as an area for worshipping female deities such as Ixcuina, the goddess of the labour; Tlazolteotl the deity of vice, purification, steam baths and lust; and Ayopechtli the goddess of birth proper

Archaeologists believe the neighbourhood was used as an area for worshipping female deities such as Ixcuina, the goddess of the labour; Tlazolteotl the deity of vice, purification, steam baths and lust; and Ayopechtli the goddess of birth proper

How conquistador Hernán Cortés helped begin Spanish rule in central Mexico

Hernán Cortés meeting the Aztec Emperor Montezuma, 1519

Hernán Cortés meeting the Aztec Emperor Montezuma, 1519

Hernán Cortés – born in Medellín, Spain, in 1485 – first made a name for himself when he helped Diego Velázquez in his conquest of Cuba.

In 1518, at the age of 33, he convinced Velázquez to let him lead an expedition to Mexico, following in the footsteps of conquistador Juan de Grijalva who led an expedition to Yucatán in 1518. 

After forming alliances with indigenous peoples, Cortés marched on Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital led by Moctezuma II.

After a failed attempt at taking the Tenochtitlán in 1520, Cortés returned in 1521 and began a three-month siege which ultimately let the Spanish to take control.

Immense cruelty was inflicted on indigenous peoples under Cortés’s orders, as well as countless lives lost due to diseases brought over from the West.

He died in Seville on December 2, 1547.

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