The Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan. Photo via Getty Images.

For years archeologists have been hunting for a royal tomb somewhere in the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacán. This year they thought they were close, but it seems they’ve struck out. This is disappointing not only because it would have been an awesome archeological discovery, but also because the lead archeologist sounds so totally bummed out.

The Guardian reports that a couple of years ago, archeologists got totally jacked when they discovered a bunch of liquid mercury in a secret tunnel under a large pyramid, sprinkled about a small earthwork landscape.

Tiny troughs containing mercury were discovered along the 103-metre (338ft) corridor under the Pyramid of the Feathered Serpent, the third-biggest temple of the ruined city 35 miles (56km) north of Mexico’s present-day capital.

It was the first time the toxic substance had been found at an ancient site in Mexico, and the discovery fuelled expectations that the search for the tomb was almost over.

Precisely the sort of thing you’d expect to find in a royal tomb whose discovery would land you on the cover of National Geographic. But lead archeologist Sergio Gómez spoke to the Guardian recently and sounded pretty downbeat about the whole thing. “At the beginning of this investigation we thought the tunnel was a metaphoric representation of the underworld, the place of creation and transmission of power, and that we would find a tomb of Teotihuacán’s leaders in this very scared place.”

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“It would have been a transcendent discovery which would help us understand Teotihuacán’s power structure and system of government, but we have almost finished the excavation—and there is no tomb,” he concluded, presumably while looking down and kicking at some very small rocks with his toe. Womp, womp.

There might’ve been a tomb at some point—it looks like something large and heavy was dragged out—but they just aren’t sure.

Thing is, they found lots of totally awesome stuff this year!

Among the most significant artefacts are four almost perfectly preserved greenstone statutes – three women and one man – found near the entrances of the chambers.

The women were adorned with necklaces and earrings, and carried backpacks full of symbolic objects including tiny mirrors believed to help communication with the future and past. The mirrors and eyes are made from pyrite – or fool’s gold.

But you can find all the stunning artifacts in the world and if it’s not a royal tomb, the reaction just isn’t the same.