Remains of Aztec palace, house built by Hernán Cortés found near Mexico City plaza

Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY

The remains of an Aztec palace dating back to the mid-1400s and later used by Spanish conqueror Hernán Cortés were discovered near a central plaza in Mexico City, officials say.

Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History announced Monday that basalt slab floors believed to be part of an open plaza in the Palace of Axayácatl were discovered during an inspection at the Nacional Monte de Piedad, located near the Plaza del Zócalo.

Axayácatl was an Aztec ruler between 1469 and 1481 and also father of Moctezuma II, the great Aztec emperor who later died during the Spanish conquest of Mexico.

Archaeologists have found parts of his palace over the past two decades, but the recent discovery of the building's foundation was made by Raúl Barrera Rodríguez and José María García Guerrero of the Urban Archeology Program, the National Institute of Anthropology and History said.

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"Given its characteristics, the specialists deduced that it was part of an open space in the former Palace of Axayácatl, probably a courtyard," the institute wrote in a statement.

The team found the basalt slabs in September 2017 as officials were looking to refurbish the Nacional Monte de Piedad. Over the next year, they worked to uncover the rest of the foundation and confirm its authenticity.

The team also discovered the remains of a house that Cortés built after Tenochtitlan fell in 1521. According to the National Institute of Anthropology and History, after the Spanish conquest, the Aztecs were ordered to destroy their palaces and temples and build new structures with the same materials.

The materials used for the foundation of Cortés' house correspond to those in the toppled palace. The palace's foundation was found around 10 feet below. 

"These premises, like so many other structures of the Sacred Precinct of Tenochtitlan, were destroyed by the Spanish and their indigenous allies, almost to their foundations," the National Institute of Anthropology and History said.

According to the institute, Cortés and his troops lived in the new building for several years, and it became the first seat of their new government in 1525.

Nacional Monte de Piedad, the building under which the remains were found, is a national charity and pawnshop that also provides loans in Mexico.

Follow USA TODAY's Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Palace of Axayácatl, Hernán Cortés house remains found in Mexico City

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