The 1.93kg slab of gold was discovered in a park in Mexico City in 1981 by a construction worker during excavations for a new building along the Alameda. How it got there remained a mystery, as the Aztec civilisation ruled in a more southern part of Mexico, while the capital city is more north of where the Aztecs once ruled. However, analysis of a Spanish invaders diary revealed the gold bar was looted by Hernan Cortes in 1520.
Cortes was a famous Spanish conquistador who docked at Veracruz in April 1519.
The following year, on June 30, the Spanish were forced to temporarily retreat as they had just slaughtered the Aztec’s nobles and priests, leaving the Aztec’s furious in a night known as ‘Noche Triste’, or ‘Sad Night’.
However, Cortes did not leave without a gift, and decided to take the weighty piece of gold with him, before evidently losing it.
A statement from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said: “The so-called ‘Noche Triste’ is among the episodes of the conquest that will be remembered this year, and there is only one piece of material evidence from it: a gold bar that sank 500 years ago in the canals of Tenochtitlan, and which recent analysis confirms came from the (Spaniards’) flight.
“This bar is a key piece in the puzzle of this historical event.”
INAH also recently discovered two 500-year anchors were uncovered at the Gulf of Mexico which belonged to Cortes.
The two anchors were embedded in sediment, at depths between 33 and 50 feet. The divers then reburied the anchors, in order to preserve them.
Remarkably, an intact wooden crosspiece had been discovered in the same vicinity last year.
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The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire was a huge event in their colonisation of the Americas. Cortes conquered the Aztecs against the odds.
He did so by forming alliances with various indigenous groups, turning groups against each other.
Cortes and his fleet are estimated to have killed around 100,000 indigenous people during his conquests.
King Charles I of Spain, however, appointed him the governor of New Spain shortly afterward, in 1522.