A tower made of human skulls was first found beneath Mexico City’s Metropolitan Cathedral in 2015. A new report details the identification of 119 more skulls, bringing the total to 600. The skulls belonged to men, women, and children and were bonded together with lime.
The Metropolitan Cathedral was built over the ruins over three centuries, from 1573-1813.
The tower was built at the end of the 1400s, right around the time Columbus landed in the New World. The conquistador Hernan Cortes was on the horizon; he marched on the Aztec capital in 1519.
Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History notes that the Aztecs saw the macabre creation as a celebration of life, regardless of current attitudes about the grisly structure.
Turning this into a story: what if someone told the story of every single skull used in the tower’s construction? Short snippets of each person’s life, where they came from, what they did, how they died.
The storyteller is a scribe tasked with preserving their memory. In the beginning, we learn his skull is the last one placed in the tower, the capstone placed on top by the ruler of the Aztec empire.
The story would highlight daily life in Aztec Mexico before colonizers disrupted their culture. The stories of entire families, warriors, and bureaucrats would be told, with the tower and its construction unifying them all.
A driving force in the story could be a prophesied end of times event, which readers will know is the arrival of Europeans. While the event wouldn’t appear in the novel, it’s proximity on the horizon dictates all their actions.
The primary opponent could be an Aztec priest who wants the skulls used in another ritual. The scribe outlines the fight between the tower’s makers and the priest who opposes it’s construction between stories about individual skulls. The final battle takes place before the ruler of the Aztec empire, who decides the tower’s construction will commence with the collected skulls.
Ultimately, the dissenting priest’s skull is added to the structure as well.
Further books in the series could highlight different Aztec structures, telling the story of their creation or use. The series would culminate with the arrival of Cortes and the subsequent destruction of the Aztec relics.