Mexico City - A gold bar found in a Mexico City park in 1981 was part of the Aztec treasure looted by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago, a new study says.
The 1.93-kilogram (4.35 pound) bar was found almost four decades ago by a construction worker during excavations for a new building along the Alameda, a picturesque park in the heart of the Mexican capital. He found it buried about 15.7 feet deep and gave it to a team of archaeologists.
For 39 years, its origins remained a mystery.
But thanks to technological advancements in X-rays equipment, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says it has now confirmed where the bar came from: the Spaniards' hasty retreat during the so-called "Noche Triste," or "Sad Night."
It is said that Cortés got the gold when he sought out Aztec emperor Moctezuma for his treasure in 1519. A year after being welcomed into the capitol city of Tenochtitlán, now Mexico City, he arrested the emperor and demanded all of his gold. Cortés and his men then melted the treasure down into bars and had the Aztec nobles and priests killed.
On that 'Sad Night' - June 30, 1520 - the Aztecs, furious over the slaughter of their nobles and priests, drove the Spanish invaders from Tenochtitlan. The conquistadors escaped with as much looted treasure as they could carry, including, apparently, the gold bar in question.
The area where the gold bar was found is believed to be the location of an ancient canal that Cortés and his troops used to try to escape. The study found the bar's composition matched that of other Aztec pieces from the period. "This bar is a key piece in the puzzle of this historical event," INAH said.
The gold bar will remain at the museum for visitors to view.
Sources: INAH • phys.org • CNN