History's Greatest Mysteries (2020) s05e01 Episode Script

Montezuma's Lost Treasure

Tonight, an Aztec king's
glittering treasure.
Its whereabouts, unknown.
Montezuma had this big treasure.
Some of the most
valuable jewels.
Gold, silver.
The value of that is
almost immeasurable.
It must be in the hundreds
of billions of dollars.
It's inspired a 500-year
search that spans continents.
Spanish explorers
started searching for it
and were really willing to
do anything to get to it.
Now, we uncover the top
theories behind a fortune
that vanished into thin air.
Someone's got it,
someone's hiding it.
And he believes
that that map is a map
to show where Montezuma's
hidden gold is contained.
And even today, treasure
hunters are looking
for this lost pyramid with
this gold treasure inside it.
What really happened to
Montezuma's lost treasure
and where is it today?
November 1519, Tenochtitlan.
Aztec King Montezuma
has spent 16 years
building the strongest
nation in Mesoamerica.
Montezuma II is the
ninth Aztec emperor.
He was a great warrior.
He was very much respected.
His military units had
conquered large sections
of Mesoamerica.
He was emperor when the Aztec
Empire was at its cultural
and geographic peak.
It was comprised
of 500 city-states
and close to 6 million people.
And at the center of this empire
was the gleaming white city
of Tenochtitlan,
modern Mexico City.
This was a time when the
Aztec Empire stretched
as far as present-day
Honduras and Guatemala.
Like any conqueror,
Montezuma plunders treasure
from the lands he captures.
He was looting from
these other states
all kinds of treasures,
gold bars and masks,
turquoise, jade,
other precious stones.
And they kept them
there at Tenochtitlan.
In the Aztec world,
nothing is valued like gold.
Among Aztecs, gold was
seen as almost a divine item.
It had a connection to divinity.
In fact, it was essentially
called the excrement
of the gods.
This means this is
what comes from the gods,
and in the sense as they're
digesting their power
and turning it
into a gift for us,
a gift of beauty, a
gift of great color,
a gift associated with the sun.
We don't know exactly how
much wealth, how much treasure,
how much gold Montezuma had.
We know it was there.
It was represented
in people's clothing.
It was represented in the art.
Estimations are a guess
but do go as high
as the billions.
But just as
Montezuma reaches the height
of his power,
a threat appears at
the edge of his empire.
After 1492,
following the landing
by Christopher Columbus
in what is today The Bahamas,
the Spaniards
established colonies
throughout the
Western Hemisphere.
In the 20 years or so
after the establishment
of Spanish colonies,
the Spaniards were
interested in finding gold,
but there was very little
of it in the Caribbean.
But at the same time,
the Spaniards begin to hear
stories from the mainland
of untold riches just
over the horizon.
Gold is such a rare
commodity in Europe.
It is extremely valuable.
So it makes sense that
as soon as Columbus
and other Spanish explorers
started to discover that
this existed in what they
called the New World,
they started searching for it
and were really willing to
do anything to get to it.
And they start to send
expeditionary trips
into the east coast
of what's now Mexico,
trying to contact this empire.
And that's where Hernan
Cortes enters the story.
Cortes had been an
administrator on Cuba
for seven years,
and he had heard stories
of the great Aztec Empire
and the great city
of Tenochtitlan
and the great treasure
that they had.
In February of 1519,
Cortes set sail from Cuba with
over 500 men, 100 sailors,
and 11 ships straight for
the Yucatan Peninsula.
He makes his way
around the peninsula
and eventually makes
landfall at what becomes
the important port of Veracruz.
They landed and then
Cortes burned the ships.
And he told his men, "You're
not going back to Cuba.
You are going forward with me
to conquer the Aztec Empire."
Nine months later, they arrived
into the Aztec capital.
Imagine the scene.
The Spaniards are coming
into Tenochtitlan.
They are so overwhelmed
by the size, the beauty,
the organization, the wealth,
that later, Hernan Cortes
writes about this city
and he says, "Some of us
had been to Constantinople,
some to Paris,
and yet we'd never seen
anything as fabulous as this."
So Cortes shows
up at Tenochtitlan,
and Montezuma welcomes him.
He's glad to see Cortes
and the conquistadors,
and he thinks that they
are returning gods.
The Aztecs had a prophecy of
a god named Quetzalcoatl.
And Quetzalcoatl
was a bearded man,
and he was to come
on a certain year.
And that was, by coincidence,
the exact same year that
Cortes was marching
on to Tenochtitlan.
And Cortes was also a
bearded Spanish conquistador.
Unbelievably, Cortes marches
right into Tenochtitlan.
Cortes and his men
are allowed to stay
on the royal palace grounds.
When Cortes and his men
are given accommodations
in the palace,
they notice a fresh wall
in the palace,
freshly bricked up.
And so, their curiosity piqued,
break down that wall and find
a hidden room of treasure.
Treasure, the
conquistadors intuit,
that Montezuma did
not want them to see.
With his eyes on the gold,
Cortes takes Montezuma prisoner
just days after arriving.
Hernan Cortes orders his men
to basically rush Montezuma.
They essentially put
him under house arrest.
And this endures
for seven months,
where Montezuma is
effectively a puppet emperor.
Cortes was essentially
giving Montezuma orders.
We now have descriptions
of the Spaniards
forcing the Aztec
smiths to take the gold
and to smelt it down.
The Spanish are just
interested in the gold.
They don't care if it's
a bracelet or a mask.
They just want the gold.
And so, they begin to
melt it down into bars
and ingots with the intent
of sending back to Spain.
The Spanish have a
huge amount of gold,
not just the gold
that they've gotten
from the treasure room,
but all of the gold that
they have accumulated
from the point where
they landed in Veracruz.
By June of 1520,
the Aztec people reach
a breaking point.
One day, Montezuma is
addressing the crowd,
and they've now really
had it with the Spanish.
And they feel that
their king is a puppet,
and they kill him.
The Spanish then retreat
inside of the palace.
There's about 500
conquistadors that are there.
So they are outnumbered by
tens and tens of thousands
of Aztec warriors.
Hernan Cortes and other
Spaniards now realize,
they gotta go.
This is not tenable anymore
for them to be in Tenochtitlan.
On June 30th, 1520,
Cortes makes the faithful
decision to flee Tenochtitlan.
Many historians estimate
that Hernan Cortes
and his men had gathered
up to eight tons of gold.
So they had to figure
out a way to get
at least most of that
gold out of Tenochtitlan
when they escaped.
So initially,
Cortes gives direction
to take a specific
amount of treasure,
but then after that,
he tells his men
that they can take whatever
else they can carry.
This is a seminal example
of eyes being too big
for your stomach.
Getting all
that gold out of Tenochtitlan
will be no easy feat.
The Aztec capital of
Tenochtitlan was like a Venice
of the Americas.
It was a city that
was built on an island
in the middle of this
shallow lake of Lake Texcoco.
It's a maze of
canals and causeways.
So, they basically
have to get boats.
Some people are gonna
swim next to the boats.
It's a very complex
process of getting out,
a very dangerous one.
Nightfall comes, and
they begin their escape.
Now, the escape is going well,
but then they're spotted.
50,000 Aztecs descend
upon Cortes's 500 conquistadors.
The Spanish remember what
follows as The Night of Sorrows.
You have these conquistadors
who are not light on their feet.
They're weighed down with gold,
many of them falling
into the water.
Ultimately, only Cortes
and about 50 conquistadors
and indigenous allies
made it out alive.
Hundreds of lives are lost,
and according to some,
so is the gold.
So on The Night of Sorrows,
many of the Spanish
soldiers who died,
sunk to the bottom of the
waters of Tenochtitlan
along with the gold they
were trying to smuggle out.
A discovery
more than 450 years later
adds weight to the theory
that Montezuma's treasure
was lost in battle, sunk
in the Aztec canals.
In 1981, president of Mexico,
Miguel Lopez Portillo, ordered
the building of a new bank
near the Alameda, the great
park in downtown Mexico City.
The construction worker,
who's digging about 15 feet
under the ground,
happens upon a gold bar.
He is absolutely amazed
by what he has found.
What it ends up being is
a nearly 23 karat gold bar,
11 inches long, 2 inches wide.
The story makes
headlines around the world.
Archeologists say the
location matches up
to one of Tenochtitlan's
ancient canals.
And one of Cortes's men
may have also left a clue
in his memoirs.
The shape and proportion
of the bar match
almost exactly to what one
of Cortes's lieutenants
described as the process
by which they melted down,
with the help of the Aztecs,
their gold, their masks,
their jewelry, into these
very distinctive gold bars,
11 inches long, 2 inches wide.
Then, nearly 40 years later,
new technology may tell
even more of the story.
In 2020, this gold
bar is subjected
to fluorescent X-ray
chemical analysis.
Based on the
composition of the gold,
as analyzed by the chemists,
they know that this is gold
that comes from central Mexico,
and it was mined by the Aztecs.
They also were able to date
the gold bar to 1519, 1520,
exactly the time Cortes
was in Tenochtitlan.
Experts believe
it's likely the gold bar
is part of Montezuma's treasure.
But if so, where's
the rest of it?
Finding that one gold
bar in that one spot
implied that there must've
been a chaotic situation
in which the gold was
basically spread out
all over what would've
been Tenochtitlan.
People were sinking
under the water,
people were getting
killed everywhere.
So the implication is that
there may be more gold
sitting under Mexico City.
But we're dealing with 500
years worth of construction
on top of what was initially
an ancient city,
in an island, in the
middle of a lake.
Who knows what
remains to be found?
June 30th, 1520.
In a bloody battle
between the Aztecs
and Spanish conquistadors
in what's now Mexico City,
most of the Spanish
soldiers are killed,
and Montezuma's gold
is supposedly dropped
in the city's canals,
but Hernan Cortes survives.
Cortes is eventually
able to escape back
to another city, Tlaxcala,
where he spends months
rebuilding his army.
And it's with this
enlarged army,
hundreds more conquistadors,
thousands more
Mesoamerican allies,
that he determines to
return, for the last time,
to take Tenochtitlan.
When the Spaniards come
into the Aztec capital,
they're accompanied by over
20,000 Tlaxcalan warriors.
Tlaxcala is a kingdom
that the Aztecs have never
been able to defeat.
And so, they're the
enemies of the Aztec.
During a nearly
three-month siege
during which Cortes is able
to cut off the causeways,
isolating Tenochtitlan,
the Aztecs finally give up.
And when Cortes and his
Tlaxcalan allies march
into the city,
they are ruthless.
The Aztec Empire,
which had existed for
over a hundred years,
is over.
Cortes is
determined to take back any gold
that wasn't lost during
his previous escape.
But whatever gold
Cortes does find,
he can't keep all of it.
One fifth of all gold
and treasure that was taken
by conquistadors was to go
back to Spain and to the king.
It was a, basically, 20% tax
on all the treasure they found.
After coming to the New World,
Spain takes unprecedented
quantities of gold
from the indigenous
peoples of the Americas.
It's thought that
about 181 tons of gold
was brought back to Spain,
and that the value of that
would've been around $4 billion.
It made the king of
Spain incredibly wealthy,
and Spain at that time was
the most powerful country
in Europe.
They had tremendous
amounts of money.
The Spanish established
a series of ports
in the Caribbean and
along the Gulf of Mexico
for gathering all of
the Aztec treasure
and then sending
it back to Spain
in massive fleets of ships.
Much of the gold
shipped from Mexico to Spain
left from the port of Veracruz.
Could Montezuma's treasure
have taken the same route?
Even though we know that
most Aztec gold was melted down
into bars, some artifacts
did make it back to Spain.
The great painter Albrecht
Durer describes in one
of his diary entries,
seeing treasures coming
from Montezuma's world
as sent by Cortes.
He describes a great,
circular, silver object
as well as a golden sun
that is now being shown
to the royal families of Europe.
450 years later,
fisherman Raul Hurtado
is working near Veracruz
when he makes an
astonishing discovery.
It's a small gold ingot,
which Hurtado doesn't
think too much of
at this particular
moment in time.
It's just a trinket.
But he at least has it
in the back of his mind
for a while that, where
there's one piece of treasure,
there might be more.
So about a year later,
Raul Hurtado returns to the
same spot looking for more gold.
This time, he discovers
42 pre-Columbian
items in the water,
which amounted to about
15 pounds of gold,
which would've been about
$300,000 in today's money.
discovery becomes known as
"Las Joyas del Pescador",
or "The Fisherman's Jewels".
Tellingly, some of the
items are stamped with a C,
C for Carlos.
King Charles V, king of Spain,
emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire,
at the time Cortes
was in the New World.
Some of the gold was
marked with Carlos V's stamp
because he was owed a 20%
tax on what was collected.
So, to make things easier
and more clear cut,
simply mark his
portion with his name.
So a lot of people
believe that this was a sign
that this was Montezuma's
gold being returned to Spain.
But if so,
how might the fisherman's gold
have ended up in the water?
Well, if it was on a boat
making its way to Spain,
it's very likely that at
least a few of those boats
would've sunk or some of it
would've fallen off the boats.
It's not likely that
every single piece
of gold would've made it
from Mexico back to Spain.
Today, these ingots
and the rest of The Fisherman's
Jewels are exhibited
in a museum in Veracruz.
But is there proof
that this gold was part
of Montezuma's stolen
treasure en route for Spain?
It's a great story,
but what it would need is the
type of verification we have
in other cases, where we have
X-ray or chemical analysis,
and that has yet
to be conducted.
So the mystery remains unsolved
until that kind of
testing is done.
While some historians believe
Cortes likely got the
bulk of Montezuma's gold,
others suspect that
might not be true.
The Spanish records
tell us that they took
and plundered every piece
of gold they could find.
But one of the other
theories about what happened
to Montezuma's gold
is quite interesting.
What if they stashed
away the gold
before the Spanish
could actually steal it?
They understood that Cortes
and the Spanish were coming
for one thing, gold.
So there is a scenario in
which Montezuma decided,
"I need to get this gold
out of Tenochtitlan."
A man named
John Carmichael believed
that's exactly what happened.
The explorer's
story was recorded
in a 20th century
American newspaper.
John Carmichael was a
British officer who was working
in British Honduras in
1868, which is today Belize.
So, when he was there,
he was told a story
by a father and son,
local indigenous family,
about gold that was
stashed by the Aztecs
in a temple in
Guatemala called Tikal.
The local legend is that
Montezuma ordered the gold
to be stashed there after
the Spanish showed up.
And it's not crazy to think
that Montezuma would've sent
some of the gold that he had
south to what's now Guatemala,
because he must've
understood on some level
that Hernan Cortes
was dangerous.
Intrigued with the story,
Carmichael convinces
the father and son
to guide him to the site.
It was an arduous
three-day journey,
but they finally
arrived at Tikal.
Tikal is a fabulous Mayan city,
but it was already ruins
at the time of the Aztecs.
So Tikal itself had very
steep, high pyramids,
but the jungle had taken
over this entire city.
It was completely deserted.
When they arrive in
front of the temple,
they realized, oh my gosh,
this temple was sealed shut.
Perhaps intentionally
sealed so shut,
they would've needed modern
equipment to break it open,
which they did not have.
So they had to leave and return
with that modern equipment
to do it.
Before Carmichael can arrange
another expedition, he
gets transferred overseas.
Carmichael basically accepts
that he's just gonna have
to let this one go.
So he returns to England,
he gets busy with life.
But more than 20 years later,
a chance discovery inspires him
to pick up the search once more.
He gets an assignment in his job
and returns to Mexico City.
And while he's there,
he goes to a library,
and he's just reading up on
some local kind of legends.
He says that he
happens upon an account
from a priest that says
that Aztec gold was stashed
at a temple in Tikal.
Almost a confirmation
of what the father
and son had told him
20 years earlier.
And that sets him off on
another obsessive mission
to go back and find that gold.
In 1903, Carmichael embarks
on his second expedition.
Well, he tries to find the
father and son unsuccessfully.
He has to rely on his old notes,
but he's determined
to find this temple.
And he makes his way
back to Guatemala,
back into the jungle, to go
back to the temple in Tikal.
Carmichael leaves
with his new guides,
but they return several weeks
later without Carmichael
and said that he died of
malaria while they were trying
to find the temple.
And one story is that the
guides that were taking him
had no choice but to bury his
body on the side of a road.
Carmichael may be gone,
but that's not the
end of his quest.
And then some years
go by and in 1926,
a British archeologist
named Thomas Gann then takes
up the quest again.
And he tries to follow
Carmichael's expedition
to find this pyramid with
the lost treasure in it,
but he also fails.
That the Victorian
explorers didn't find any gold
in Guatemala doesn't prove that
it was never brought there.
in Guatemala doesn't prove that
it was never brought there.
Could it have been there?
Could it have been moved?
We don't know.
After 500 years,
the quest for Montezuma's
lost treasure has turned up
some incredible finds,
but hardly the entire hoard
of gold rumored to exist.
Is that because there's
more to the story
of Spain's Aztec conquest
than we've been told?
Could it be that no one's
found Montezuma's lost treasure
because everyone's looking
in the wrong place?
When the Aztecs came
to central Mexico
and founded the capital city
of Tenochtitlan in 1325,
it was the culmination
of an epic journey.
The story goes, about
the Aztecs' origins,
are very murky.
The official tale made by
the Aztecs is that they came
from a place called Aztlan.
Aztlan is the place of
origin of the Aztec people.
The story being that a
priest received in a dream,
a message from the
deity who told him,
"You need to move out of Aztlan
and go south to
find a new homeland.
You will finally see my image
as a giant eagle on a cactus,
blooming in the
middle of a lake.
"And that is to where
your home should be."
The sign happens to be on a
small island in Lake Texcoco,
and that is where the legend
of Tenochtitlan begins.
But the Aztecs continued
to have a deep connection
to Aztlan.
It's in their art, it's in
the stories of their migration,
and the written codices.
But where was Aztlan?
Scholars believe the Aztec
language may be a clue.
The language that the
Aztecs speak is Nahuatl.
It is a similar
language to the Paiutes
and to the Zunis and the Hopis.
So, here we have
a linguistic link
between the Aztecs
and tribes that are
in northern Arizona
and in southern Utah.
This suggests that Aztlan is
somewhere in northern Mexico
or in the southwest
United States.
Aztlan is something that the
Aztecs were obsessed about,
and that obsession eventually
led one of their emperors,
Montezuma I, to send a
large expedition north
to try to find it.
Is it possible
that after the Spanish
invaded Mexico
searching for gold,
Montezuma II enacted
a similar plan?
It's a story that has
been passed down orally
from generation to generation.
The idea is that seven
caravans were sent out
from Tenochtitlan to the north,
and each of these caravans had
a considerable amount of gold.
There is some evidence
to suggest that
the Aztecs did make it as
far as present-day Arizona.
We found some evidence in
the form of cocoa beans,
in the form of a rubber
ball that was used
in an Aztec ball game,
that suggests that maybe
some may have made
it that far north.
After the long journey,
a legend says the Aztecs
supposedly placed the treasure
in a cave.
Half of the Aztecs
stayed with the treasure
while the other half
returned to Tenochtitlan.
And the hope was that they
would eventually go back north
to the hidden treasure and
bring it back to Tenochtitlan,
but that wasn't to happen.
And therefore, the remaining
people up in northern Arizona,
they were just integrated
into the local population
and ultimately, the
treasures were forgotten.
500 years later,
a story emerges of a
prospector named Jake Johnson.
There really is only
one written version
of Jake Johnson's story,
and that comes from a miner's
newspaper printed in 1903.
In 1902,
Johnson is alone in
the Arizona desert
when he breaks his leg.
And he's then
nursed back to health
by a Paiute named Rabbit Tail,
and his wife helps him
recover from his broken leg.
And in the process
of healing, Rabbit Tail
and Johnson would get into
conversations over a fire,
and Rabbit Tail tells
him this story about gold
that made its way
north by Aztecs
and was there in Arizona.
But then comes the bombshell.
Rabbit Tail tells Johnson that
the tribe still knows
where the gold is.
And, of course, Johnson
becomes extremely interested
and begs Rabbit Tail to
take him and show him.
Rabbit Tail says no initially,
that it was a secret,
and he would not
reveal it to him.
Then, as the story goes,
Johnson gets his opportunity.
While Jake Johnson
is recuperating,
a mountain lion
comes into their camp
and is about to attack
Rabbit Tail's wife.
Johnson has a rifle with him.
And he has essentially
saved her life.
And Johnson, realizing
how grateful Rabbit Tail is,
asks him, "Can you please
show me where the gold is?"
So Rabbit Tail agrees.
But he blindfolds Johnson,
so Johnson would not
see where the gold was.
And so, they enter
this series of caves.
They climb through with
their blindfolds on.
They take him to a secret place,
and then they take
the blindfold off.
And he sees this fantastic gold
treasure that is being kept
in the cave by the Paiutes.
So he gives him a couple minutes
to gather as much
gold as possible.
Johnson puts the blindfold
back on and they leave.
After Rabbit Tail is on
his way, greed kicks in,
and Johnson tries to
relocate the cave,
but he never finds it.
Johnson is able to sell
his gold for about $15,000.
It's the equivalent of
about $450,000 today.
It's quite a treasure in 1902.
But as for the
location of this treasure cave,
it remains a mystery.
For well over a hundred years,
legends have persisted
of Montezuma's gold
being sent thousands
of miles north.
There are a lot of stories
about how Montezuma's gold
might've made its way
to northern Mexico
to the southern United States,
states like Utah,
California, or Arizona.
You can't necessarily
ignore a story
because it's a legend.
There's oftentimes a kernel
of truth in the story
if it's been passed
down for so many years
between so many people.
One enduring tale involves
an American prospector from
Utah named Freddy Crystal.
In the early 1900s, Freddy
Crystal was in Mexico,
and there was a monastery that
was being demolished
at the time.
Supposedly, Crystal
is able to gain access
to this ancient monastery,
and he finds old documents,
documents dating back
to the time of Cortes.
Supposedly, some of which even
describe how Cortes tortured
some of the priests
of Tenochtitlan
after he retook the city,
asking them where
the treasure was.
And then,
according to the legend,
he makes an even
bigger discovery.
He finds a map that
looks like the stump
of a tree with branches
hanging out of it
that contains petroglyphs.
And to him, he feels like
he recognizes this map.
The landscape draws
Crystal's attention.
Freddy Crystal recognizes a
mountain range on these maps
as a mountain range
near Kanab, Utah,
which is where he's from.
Crystal is convinced that
this map is going to lead him
to treasure, a treasure
that has a connection
that goes all the way back
to Cortes and Montezuma.
So he then goes up to
Kanab, Utah with his map,
and he finds three
caves that are unusual.
And he thinks that these
caves are the location
of Montezuma's treasure.
So he gets some of the local
townspeople to help him,
and they go into these caves,
and they figure that the Aztecs
have walled up the treasure
by creating piles of
rocks and plaster.
And behind these walls,
will be the treasure.
They break it down.
Freddy goes inside,
and what does he find?
And there, behind that
little wall is a tunnel
into the mountain.
Freddy thinks
he's hit the jackpot.
Freddy Crystal and his friends,
they're extremely excited.
They spend weeks tunneling
and tearing down walls
inside these tunnels.
They find some chambers.
They find some
other kind of clues.
They find, in the
caves, chisel marks.
They find some animal bones
and things like that,
but there's no treasure at all.
So after months of digging,
after months of frustration,
eventually, most of the town
just gives up and returns home.
And eventually, Freddy
Crystal decides that, well,
he's going to give up his
quest for the lost treasure.
And he leaves town, and
he's never seen again.
But that Freddy
Crystal never found
any of the rumored
treasure has had no effect
in terms of dissuading
future treasure hunters.
Every year, every season,
there is a new batch
of treasure hunters.
There are returning
treasure hunters who think
that they have finally
found the missing piece
that will ultimately lead them
to Montezuma's missing treasure.
that will ultimately lead them
to Montezuma's missing treasure.
And they will probably continue
for many years to come.
When Montezuma
became king in 1502,
the Aztecs had been ruling
what's now central Mexico
for over 130 years.
We know that Montezuma
enjoyed a lavish lifestyle
that would've been the envy
of any monarch of Europe
or sultan of the Middle East.
Montezuma was living large.
He had his own zoo, which
had a plethora of birds.
He had jaguars, other
kinds of wild animals.
As the story goes, in
the Palace of Axayacatl
was Montezuma's treasure room
where he stored all manner
of jewels, gold, silver,
such that when the conquistadors
said that they saw it,
they were simply dumbfounded.
Cortes and his
men likely raided that room
just before escaping on
The Night of Sorrows.
There's really no way of knowing
how much gold the Spanish got.
We know that they took
some portion of it.
Did the Aztecs hide caches of
gold in multiple locations?
And how much of the
gold was hidden?
How much of the gold may
have been left behind?
Is it possible
the Aztecs hid the treasure
in another part of the
palace before Cortes
and the Spanish returned
to conquer the city?
Uncovering the palace's
remains to find the proof
is a challenge.
After retaking the city,
Cortes and his man began a
process of dismantling it.
All of this progress,
all of this technology,
all of this human achievement
brought down to rubble.
They begin erecting
new structures.
They begin to drain the lake.
And thus, begins a process
that leads us from Tenochtitlan
to present-day Mexico City.
But then, in
2017, a stunning discovery.
In 2017, construction on
the Nacional Monte de Piedad,
a historic pawn
shop in Mexico City,
reveals, 10 feet down, a
basalt floor dated back
to the time of Montezuma.
Experts looked at the
pattern of the stones,
and because of the
way they were laid,
believe it was some kind
of patio or outdoor space.
Maybe even a courtyard
from the Palace of Axayacatl.
As the archeologists
continued to dig,
they uncover an adjacent
room that may provide a clue.
They find, embedded in
the corner of the room,
two large Aztec stones
with carvings on them.
One of the stones
depicted Quetzalcoatl,
who was the serpent god
and the creator of the
world and humanity.
And the other was a carving
of a feather headdress.
Archeologists confirm
only a king's home
would have such
intricately carved stones,
concluding this courtyard
and room were sections
of the long lost
Palace of Axayacatl.
The same palace Cortes and
his men were brought to
when they arrived
in Tenochtitlan.
This may have been the same
stone floor that Cortes
and his men would
have walked across
upon first meeting Montezuma.
The palace is where
Cortes and his men lived,
where Montezuma might
have put the treasures
that have been lost.
But the truth is,
there's no hard evidence
that this is where
it was all stored.
Could there still be
an underground vault nearby
filled with treasure
Cortes and his men didn't take?
Is it possible that
there is a room full
of gold somewhere
beneath Mexico City, today?
It's a fantastic thought.
But if the treasure is still
in downtown Mexico City,
which has cathedrals and
huge buildings around it,
they're not gonna be
tearing that up to find
some hidden room full of gold.
To me, the most interesting
part of the search
for Montezuma's lost
treasure is that to find it,
we have to not only peel
back layers of city,
but we have to go back
through an entire change
in the historical
context of the world.
After 500 years, the legends
about what really happened
to Montezuma's treasure live on.
Did it disappear entirely
after the Spanish conquest?
Or was it hidden somewhere
from future threats,
just waiting to be found?
I'm Laurence Fishburne.
Thank you for watching
"History's Greatest Mysteries".
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