archaeological discoveries in Mexico City

Located in the heart of Mexico City, the ruins of Templo Mayor were unexpectedly discovered by workers in 1978. Since then, more than 40,000 artifacts have been uncovered and excavations are ongoing.

Amazing archaeological discoveries in Mexico City were made as recently as 1978

As the most highly populated city in all of North America, the Federal District of Mexico City is a huge metropolis of 19.2 million people spanning 1,480 square kilometres (more than 570 square miles) comprised of 16 districts. Within the districts are neighbourhoods, each with their own distinct personalities. If you love contemporary culture, you’ll love Mexico City.

This Aztec sculpture is part of an immense collection in the museum at Templo Mayor in Mexico City.

Mexico City is truly a destination to inspire anyone who loves artifacts and archaeology. I had first been to Mexico City on a quick trip back in 2015, but my focus was strictly on meeting Mexico’s number one man of chocolate. How fortunate I was to return in early 2020 on a group tour that introduced us to Mexico City’s multi-layer history (literally, historically, and culturally.)

We learned that the central area of Mexico City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to massive 14th century Aztec ruins buried beneath the surface in what was previously known as the city of Tenochtitlan. Thought to be the “centre of the universe” and religious hub of the Aztec nation, the 60-metre (196-feet) tall temple known as Templo Mayor was built beginning in 1325–and rebuilt six times prior to being burned and demolished by the Spanish conquistadors led by Cortes in 1521.

Take note of the archaeologist working on further excavating the Templo Mayor ruins in Mexico City. This serpent in the forefront of the image is really quite striking!
This model shows how huge Templo Mayor was!

Templo Mayor is just one of the many things to see in Mexico City. I’ll do another post on some of the other significant historical destinations that are worth including on your Mexico City bucket list. And don’t forget about the chocolate museum that I’ve covered in this post. 😊

Doreen Pendgracs

Known throughout the Web as the "Wizard of Words", I've been a freelance writer since 1993. I'm currently researching and writing volume II of "Chocolatour: A Quest for the World's Best Chocolate". Volume I was published in September, 2013.

36 Responses

  1. Madhura Shedge says:

    What I have envisioned about Mexico is lovely beaches, exquisite cuisines, colorful festivals, and amazing drinks. But after reading your post about its archaeological discoveries, I’ve changed my mind and now realize how much more there is to the amazing country of Mexico.

  2. What an amazing place, Doreen. We just house sat for a couple in Panama who raved about Mexico City. Definitely high on our travel list.

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    • Hi Ryan and thx for your comment. Yes, Mexico City is an incredible place to visit. They’ve had a tremendously difficult year due to COVID and other concerns, but it’s really an incredible city to visit and experience.

  3. Michele H Peterson says:

    I didn’t know there were so many archeological sites in Mexico City as I’m usually focused on food or just in the city for a few days. But I’ve definitely been missing out so will need to add a few of these spots to my must-see list!!
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    • I hear you, Michele! On my first visit to Mexico City, it was all about the chocolate! But the 2020 trip was more focused on heritage and culture and really worth experiencing!

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  5. Wow, who knew there were so many archaeological sites to discover in Mexico City? I’ve always wanted to visit Mexico City – mostly for the food! But love that there’s a ton of history to discover too!

    • Hi Riana. Thx for your comment, and welcome to Chocolatour! I hope you’ll have a look around at some of the other posts. There are many for lovers of culinary travel such as you and me. And, yes. You can’t get a destination that is better for food and fun than Mexico. But for those who really love history and culture, Mexico City is a true gem. I hope you get there soon.

  6. Mexico City is one of my favorite cities in the world, and I’m fortunate to live just a few hours away by comfortable luxury bus. I was last there in June 2019. (A later trip was pandemic-derailed). The ruins at the Templo Mayor are a favorite destination. I particularly love the fact that they are right there, in your face, in the exact center of this giant metropolis. I generally choose to stay near the Zocalo, so I walk past them often. This entire area, from the Aztec ruins to the colonial cathedral and palace, to the Victorian grandeur of the Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, to the modern businesses are such a clear portrayal of the many layers of Mexican history, peeled off right before our eyes.
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    • Hi Donna. Thx so much for your comment. I didn’t realize you are living so close to MX City. How cool is that? I hope to do a future post on some of the other highlights of this great city and hope you will return to share your personal reflections. Stay safe!

  7. I always learn something reading your posts. I’ve never been there and didn’t know it was the most highly populated city in all of North America. Thanks for sharing your travel experiences. It allows me travel virtually until we can travel again, in person.

  8. I love learning about these ancient civilizations and the depictions of what the structures looked like.
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    • Thanks, RoseMary. I was completely fascinated by what lay beneath the surface of Mexico City! We were at the Templo Mayor site for nearly the whole day, first discovering the magnitude of the archaeological ruins, and then exploring the various artifacts and artwork inside the on-site museum. It is an incredible destination.

  9. Janet says:

    Another stop on the bucket list to visit! Mexico City looks like an amazing place to explore.

  10. Couldn’t agree more that the archaeological discoveries in Mexico City are incredible. I loved seeing how the excavations for water pipes found the Zocolo artifacts. The Museum of Archaeology is another amazing spot to visit.

  11. Margaret Anne Fehr says:

    So glad to have been a member of our Manitoba entourage for this visit, Doreen. Touring the underground ruins, running my hand over the bricks of the structure and thinking of the workers who placed them centuries ago was like a bit of time travel! This was a extraordinary part of our tour and it really gave me such respect for this culture. Hope to return and travelling in January/Feb was great. The temperature was moderate and sunny and made sightseeing very comfortable.

    • Hi Margaret. Thx so much for sharing your tactile experience at Templo Mayor with us. It’s always so interesting to hear how each destination or travel locale creates a unique and memorable experience for each visitor. And I agree! Mexico City is a destination that merits several visits.

  12. I think I was in Templo Mayor on a very brief visit to Mexico City several years ago! If it’s the same place, we were walking within quite an enclosed passageway that was little too claustrophobic for me, but the City’s cultural and historic sites cannot be underestimated. I look forward to reading more of your experiences there, Doreen!

    • Thx so much for your comment, Bruce. It’s great to have you stop by. I don’t recall an enclosed passageway at Templo Mayor. Perhaps that was a temp setup when they were doing excavating? I think the site is constantly changing, as they’re still deep in the midst of excavation. It is SO amazing all that they’ve found beneath the surface.

  13. Beverley Phillips says:

    I’ve read many articles about Mexican archeology, but it’s special to hear first-hand about it from a visitor’s point of view. Great photos, too. Thanks, Doreen!

    • Thx so much, Bev. I know you are an avid traveler. Have you ever been to Mexico? I think you’d love Mexico City because of the cultural and historical impact of the city. And did I mention the great chocolate???

  14. The imagery in Mexico fascinates me. I think this is a tour I would very much enjoy. Mexico City has so many layers to offer!
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    • Thx for your comment, Alison.

      I’ve been going to Mexico for about 40 years & never get tired of it. Each city and region has its own personality and special attributes. I can’t wait to ho back!

  15. Sheryl Poirier says:

    As Doreen said in this blog post, the layers of history and culture in Mexico is truly astounding! I was on this tour with Doreen. One hears about the Aztecs and the Mayans but so many other civilizations have risen and fallen throughout the country, our trip barely scraped the surface! It is my understanding archaeologists feel they have barely done so themselves. Templo Mayor is well worth visiting. Give yourself plenty of time. Examine the examples of art (sculpture, musical instruments, painting, textiles) and the history. Even within sight of the site, you can see evidence of several epochs through the architecture of Mexico City surrounding Templo Mayor.

    • Thx so much for your comment, Sheryl! It was such a pleasure traveling with you as you take everything in so intensely. I guess that comes from being a teacher. . I hope we get to travel again soon.

  16. You really piqued our interest when you brought up the subject of history. While we have made numerous visits to Mexico, the majority have only been tourist stops at border towns. It looks like we are due for a deeper dive into the country’s history.
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  17. Roy Manterfield says:


    • Doreen Pendgracs says:

      Thx for dropping by, Roy! I hope you’re doing well, Yes, Mexico City is truly a fascinating multi-faceted destination.

  18. Bola says:

    I enjoy contemporary culture and would Templo Mayor.

    Learning about ruins always makes a trip worthwhile. Glad you had a second chance to visit Mexico.

    • Hi Bola and thanks for your comment. I’m certainly hoping to have a 3rd trip to Mexico City when I launch volume II of Chocolatour. It is a truly amazing city that offers something for everyone.

  19. I haven’t been to this site, will definitely have to visit when I go back to Mexico city hopefully in 2021

    • Hi Noel. Yes, I, too, had no idea of the extent of archaeological findings in Mexico City until I took this specialized tour. Templo Mayor is a truly amazing site. I hope you get there!

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