A Mexican archaeologist may have made a major breakthrough in the search for the remains of 200 years of Aztec rulers, the AP reports. Researchers believe the Aztecs cremated their leaders between 1325 and 1521, but despite years of searching their cremated remains have never been found. That may have changed with an announcement Monday. According to the National Institute of Anthropology and History, archaeologist Leonardo Lopez Lujan has discovered a passageway that leads to two sealed chambers at the Templo Mayor ruins in Mexico City. That area was the "most significant temple complex" in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan.
The newly discovered passageway—only 1.5 feet wide and 5 feet high—leads to a platform were Aztec rulers are thought to have been cremated, the AP reports. It's part of a 27-foot-long tunnel that until 2013 had been blocked by a 3-ton stone. When the stone was removed, researchers found baby bones, the skulls of children who appeared to have been decapitated, and knives often used in human sacrifices. Archaeologists plan on exploring the sealed chambers next year, and Lopez Lujan is cautiously optimistic they'll find the cremated remains of a handful of Aztec rulers. "Leonardo knows the archaeology and ethno-history better than anybody, and he is not one to grandstand or make fantastic claims to garner publicity," says one anthropology professor. "Thus I would think his prediction is reasonable." (This Aztec site revealed the grisly fate of captured Spaniards.)