Strapped for Funds by a Pandemic, Mexico Buries Archaeological Site Mid-Dig

Citing rising health care costs associated with the pandemic, Mexico said it will bury a centuries-old tunnel found in 2019 near an ancient Aztec city. The country said it could not afford to turn the archaeological site into a tourist attraction as was initially planned, and that experts would no longer be able to carry out research because the funding had dried up.

The tunnel was found outside the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, in what is now central Mexico. It was once part of the Albarradón de Ecatepec, a system of dams that helped protect the city from flooding.

In 2019, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), which aided in the dig, touted the tunnel as a major discovery. Found there were 11 rock carvings known as petroglyphs and stucco reliefs depicting a bird of prey, a flint, and other subjects. The makers and dates of these images remain unknown, though archaeologists have theorized they may have been inhabitants in the nearby towns of Ecatepec and Chiconautla, which date back to the pre-Conquest era.

When the find was first announced two years ago, the INAH said that there were plans to cover the tunnel with dirt in order to safeguard it from vandalism. Eventually, however, a corridor and a window would be created, allowing the public views inside the tunnel.

On Thursday, Mexico’s government said the project had grown too costly for such measures to be undertaken right now. “To this end, it must be considered that the global health contingency caused by COVID-19 forced the institutions of the different levels of government to prioritize the allocation of resources for the health care of the population,” the INAH and the Mexican government said in a release. “For these reasons, the archaeological project had to be postponed.”

As is the case with many countries around the world, Mexico is currently seeing rising Covid numbers. According to the New York Times, less than 20 percent of the country’s population is fully vaccinated.

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