A mysterious terracotta artifact known as the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca head was discovered in Mexico, but it looks exactly like well-known Roman artifacts. How did this enigmatic object arrive in Toluca Valley?
The head was found in a burial that dates to around the time Columbus arrived in the Americas. It is impossible to calculate if the grave was made just before the end of the pre-Columbian period or at the beginning of the post-Columbian era. Researchers suggest the grave is from between 1476 and 1510 AD, but the head discovered amongst the grave goods is a mystery.
It looks nothing like other artifacts from the site or the era. In fact, it looks like well-known artwork from the Roman Empire. However, the head was discovered in the Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca area of the Toluca Valley, which is located about 65 kilometers (40 miles) north-west of Mexico City.
Discovering the 'Roman' Head
The artifact was unearthed during excavations in 1933. The work was led by an archaeologist named Jose Garcia Payon. His team discovered a grave and a grave offering under a pyramid. The structure had three intact floors, under which the offering was found. Among goods like turquoise, jet, rock crystal, gold, copper, bones, shells, and pieces of pottery, the terracotta head stood out. The artifact was so shocking that Payon decided to not publish anything about it until 1960. He was probably aware that many researchers would think his discovery a cheap hoax. Jose Garcia Payon’s eventual release of information about the strange head led to a fevered debate.
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