MEXICO CITY (AP) — A new exhibit organized by the Museo del Templo Mayor in Mexico City marks the 45th anniversary of the discovery of a monolith representing Coyolxauhqui, the Mexica moon goddess. The find was a milestone for Mexican archaeology, as it shed light on the Mexica civilization before the Spanish conquest.

“Coyolxauhqui: The Star, the Goddess, the Discovery” exhibits more than 150 archaeological objects focused on the mythology, symbolism, and scientific research surrounding this deity (whose name is pronounced Koy-ol-shauw-kee). The exhibition will run until June 4.

For nearly 500 years, the exact location of the Templo Mayor remained a mystery. The religious complex was demolished shortly after Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés ordered the destruction of all buildings in Tenochtitlan, capital of the Mexica empire, around 1521.

Patricia Ledesma, an archaeologist and director of the Templo Mayor Museum, said that her predecessors set about rescuing the traces of the Mexica civilization after the colonial era, in 1821. For more than a century, however, they made little progress.

When the country regained its independence, the heart of the capital was densely populated, complicating excavation plans. But then Coyolxauhqui appeared.

In 1978, near the Mexico City cathedral, where many thought the ruins of the Templo Mayor were buried, an electrician hit something with his shovel. It was Coyolxauhqui, carefully portrayed in stone as the dismembered moon goddess who lost a battle against her brother, the Sun.

The discovery was a turning point.

“We thought we weren’t going to find anything about the Mexica anymore,” Ledesma said. “And there she was, pointing out where the Templo Mayor could be.”

Coyolxauhqui’s location was crucial. Since the circular stone where it was carved in 1469 was found near a flight of stairs, it soon became clear that it had been hidden for centuries at the base of the Templo Mayor, dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the sun god.

These clues sparked national and international interest, prompting the National Institute of Anthropology and History to give the green light to an archaeological project that is still ongoing.

“The temple reproduces the myth of the birth of the solar god,” said Ledesma. “It represents that a world of night and darkness is defeated at the feet of the house of the triumphant Sun.”

The myth goes like this: Coatlicue, mother of the gods, sweeps out of her temple when a ball of feathers falls from the sky. She holds it to her chest and becomes pregnant.

Shortly after, Coyolxauhqui, his daughter and goddess of the Moon, finds out. She is enraged and convinces her 400 siblings, the stars, to collaborate in a plan to kill her mother.

When they attempt to assassinate Coatlicue on top of a hill, she gives birth to Huitzilopochtli (pronounced wee-tsee-loh-poch-tlee), the solar warrior deity, who is born fully clothed and ready for battle.

After facing his sister in combat, Huitzilopochtli triumphs. She decapitates Coyolxauhqui and throws her remains at the base of the hill, where she lies dismembered. That is why the Mexicas placed her stone near the stairs that they built in homage to Huitzilopochtli, her patron saint and most beloved god.

“This myth is not about his murder,” Ledesma said. “The message is that we are children of the Sun.”

According to her, the prized monolith where Coyolxauhqui’s dismembered body remains intact survived Cortés’ fury because it was out of sight. There were many sculptures by Coyolxauhqui, Ledesma said.

When the Mexicas won an important battle, they renovated their temple and its sculptures. The old ones were probably kept under the new ones, which were exposed and destroyed by the Spanish.