An Aztec spy approaches his lord and tells him, “Sire, it seems that there is a Maya spy among us”
The lord ponders the matter for some moments and tells his spy to gather everyone
With everyone gathered in the hall of the Aztec lord, the lord takes an empty basket, looks at everyone right in the eye, one by one, and asks
"How many tamales are in this basket?"
A single man takes a step forward and answers
Jaguar warriors approach the man, drag him out of the lord’s house and deliver him to be sacrificed by the priests.
The properties of these lead bricks recovered from ancient shipwrecks are ideal for experiments in particle physics. Scientists from the CDMS dark matter detection project in Minnesota (USA) and from the CUORE neutrino observatory at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy have begun to use them, but archaeologists have raised alarm about the destruction and trading of cultural heritage that lies behind this.
Two thousand years ago, a Roman vessel with ingots of lead extracted from the Sierra of Cartagena sank across the waters from the coast of Sardinia. Since 2011, more than a hundred of these ingots have been used to build the ‘Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events’ (CUORE), an advanced detector of neutrinos — almost weightless subatomic particles — at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.
In the 18th century, another ship loaded with lead ingots was wrecked on the French coast. A company of treasure hunters retrieved this material and, despite problems with French authorities, managed to sell it to the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) team. This detector located in a mine in Minnesota (USA) looks for signs of the enigmatic dark matter, which is believed to constitute a quarter of the universe.
These two examples have served as reference for the discussion that two researchers have opened between archaeologists, worried by the destruction of underwater cultural heritage, and particle physicists, pleased to have found a unique material for research on neutrinos and dark matter.
As Elena Perez-Alvaro from the University of Birmingham explains: “Roman lead is essential for conducting these experiments because it offers purity and such low levels of radioactivity — all the more so the longer it has spent underwater — which current methods for producing this metal cannot reach.”
"Lead extracted today is naturally contaminated with the isotope Pb-210, which prevents it from being used as shielding for particle detectors," adds physicist Fernando González Zalba from the University of Cambridge.
The two researchers have published a study in the journal ‘Rosetta’, also commented upon this month in ‘Science’, which poses a dilemma: Should we sacrifice part of our cultural heritage in order to achieve greater knowledge of the universe and the origin of humankind? Should we yield part of our past to discover more about our future?
"Underwater archaeologists see destruction of heritage as a loss of our past, our history, whilst physicists support basic research to look for answers we do not yet have," remarks Perez-Alvaro, "although this has led to situations in which, for example, private companies like Odyssey trade lead recovered from sunken ships." This is the company that had to return the treasure of the frigate Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes to Spain.
Dialogue between underwater archaeologists and particle physicists
The underwater archaeologist and the physicist are encouraging dialogue between both collectives, as well as developing legislation that regulates these kinds of activities, without limiting them exclusively to archaeologists, and including scientists. “Recovery for knowledge in both fields, and not merely for commercial reasons,” the scientists stress.
The jury is still out. In the case of the CUORE detector, for example, in principle the lead from the least well-preserved Roman ingots is used, although their inscriptions are cut and preserved. Some archaeologists also suggests that there are other pieces of valuable metal, such as anchor stocks, rings or tackles for fishing that we should assess whether or not to “sacrifice for science.” The problem is that they are protected by UNESCO’s 2001 Convention on the protection of underwater cultural heritage if they have been under water more than 10 years and the 2003 Convention for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage.
Regarding the habitual use that Romans made of these ingots, Pérez Álvaro points out that there are many theories, “but they were generally used as water-resistant material for pipes, water tanks or roofs, but also in the manufacture of arms and ammunition.”
A special case are the large lead bricks recovered from the largest Roman ship of the excavation of the Mediterranean, the wreck of the Bou Ferrer, which sunk very close to the port of La Vila Joiosa (Alicante). A series of engravings enable specialists to determine that their owner was the Emperor of Rome himself, probably Caligula, Claudius or Nero.
Investigan templo dedicado al dios del inframundo en Tehuacán, Puebla
Dedicado a Mictlantecuhtli o señor del inframundo, arqueólogos del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) investigan un adoratorio localizado a 20 metros al sur del Templo Mayor de la Zona Arqueológica de Tehuacán, Puebla, cuya construcción se estima a mediados del siglo XIV de nuestra era.
Bautizado como Templo de las Calaveras, porque en sus muros laterales (oeste y norte) tiene nichos en los que se encontraron dos cráneos humanos, fijados con estuco, así como cuatro fémures cada uno. Los especialistas del INAH consideran que pudo estar dedicado al dios de los muertos, Mictlantecuhtli.
El arqueólogo Ramón López Valenzuela, responsable de la excavación en Tehuacán, aseguró que el hallazgo contribuirá a dar mayor difusión a la cultura popoloca, la cual fue referida por primera vez en 1905 por el arqueólogo Nicolás León, ahora “ya se tienen suficientes datos, se ha estudiado bastante”.
Aunque sólo se ha explorado el 10 por cierto de la Zona Arqueológica de Tehuacán, con una superficie de 116 hectáreas, dijo que sería muy positivo presentar lo que se sabe de esta cultura, pues ya se ha explorado el conjunto ceremonial, donde se encuentra el Templo Mayor y ahora el Templo de las Calaveras, y también el área de elite (palacios) donde habitaban los dignatarios popolocas.
La importancia de este hallazgo radica en que este adoratorio es único en su tipo, “no se ha encontrado otro igual dedicado a la deidad de la muerte”. “Decidimos llamarlo Templo de las Calaveras, porque en dos de sus muros (norte y oeste) tiene sendos nichos con cráneos humanos, cada uno con cuatro fémures”.
Señor del inframundo
López Valenzuela recordó que este descubrimiento se registró en la temporada de campo 2012, cuando los arqueólogos encontraron evidencia de un muro que se hundía un metro por debajo del nivel de la plaza del conjunto ceremonial. “Decidimos excavar por el frente, porque lo que encontramos primero era el muro trasero y hallamos un pequeño adoratorio, en realidad dos basamentos adosados, uno con seis escalones (este) y otro más pequeño (oeste) con tres escalones, éste último es el que contiene los cráneos”.
La hipótesis de que el templo estuvo dedicado al señor del inframundo se debe a que uno de los cráneos tiene restos de pintura roja en la boca, lo que indica que podría tratarse de una personificación de Mictlantecuhtli. La Lámina 56 del Códice Borgia lo representa con su lengua roja, de ahí hago la similitud para decir que el templo estaba dedicado a esta deidad”.
Además en la parte superior del templo, abundó, se recuperaron dos cabezas de cerámica (30 centímetros) y una de piedra (25 centímetros), con la efigie del dios de los muertos, así como más de 300 fragmentos de restos óseos, lo que indica que en ese lugar se realizaron sacrificios humanos.
“Estaban en mal estado de conservación, y se les remineralizó para evitar que se siguieran erosionando, por esa razón a estos cráneos no se les pueden hacer pruebas de ADN, pero sí hacerles estudios antropofísicos; por lo pronto buscamos conservarlos lo mejor posible porque son únicos”, explicó.
Ramón López Valenzuela destacó que el templo fue encontrado en un nivel anterior a la última etapa constructiva de Tehuacán, que estaba en proceso de edificación a mediados del siglo XIV, época en que fue renivelada la plaza del conjunto ceremonial y todo se vio interrumpido por la conquista de los mexicas en 1456.
“Al someter a los popolocas, los mexicas los obligan a abandonar su ciudad y a ocupar las tierras bajas. Por eso la tercera etapa constructiva del Templo Mayor quedó inconclusa”, abundó el arqueólogo.
Desde hace 20 años la arqueóloga Noemí Castillo Tejero, de la Dirección de Estudios Arqueológicos (DEA) del INAH, ha liderado el Proyecto Arqueológico Sur del estado de Puebla, área central popoloca, Tehuacán.
El investigador del INAH también informó que en 2011 fue encontrada una escultura monumental de la diosa Citlalicue (deidad creadora, “la de la falda de estrellas”), de 1.4 metros de altura y tres toneladas aproximadamente, al pie del Templo Mayor, en el conjunto central del sitio prehispánico.
La escultura de piedra de la diosa, relacionada con la generación de la vida, estaba recargada al pie del Templo Mayor. Fue sepultada a manera de ofrenda, porque la edificación había sido recubierta con relleno, para después construirle un tercer cuerpo. Estos trabajos se interrumpieron por la invasión mexica, a mediados del siglo XIV, destacó López Valenzuela, quien lleva cinco temporadas trabajando en dicho sitio de Tehuacán.
Las dos etapas constructivas del Templo Mayor no sufrieron grandes cambios, los mexicas lo encontraron cubierto. En cambio, en otras estructuras del conjunto ceremonial de la zona arqueológica “hemos identificado cuatro etapas constructivas. Lo que nos está hablando de que el edificio era un lugar sagrado para los popolocas y prefirieron no tocarlo, a diferencia de otras estructuras dedicadas a deidades menores”.
Finalmente, dijo que en el área de elite (palacios) los arqueólogos del INAH han recuperado xantiles (figuras de barro en posición sedente y con los brazos cruzados), con representaciones de dioses como Xipe Tótec, Xochiquétzal, Xochipilli y Quetzalcóatl, que se pueden identificar por sus atributos y los colores con que fueron decoradas.
La Zona Arqueológica Tehuacán, que actualmente no está abierta al público, fue la cabecera del señorío del Tehuacán, asiento de la cultura popoloca. Se localiza en las inmediaciones del poblado de San Diego Chalma, en la meseta conocida como La Mesa, al pie del Cerro Colorado.
Nearly one-third of Native American genes come from west Eurasian people linked to the Middle East and Europe, rather than entirely from East Asians as previously thought, according to a newly sequenced genome.
Based on the arm bone of a 24,000-year-old Siberian youth, the research could uncover new origins for America’s indigenous peoples, as well as stir up fresh debate on Native American identities, experts say.
The study authors believe the new study could also help resolve some long-standing puzzles on the peopling of the New World, which include genetic oddities and archaeological inconsistencies.
"These results were a great surprise to us," said study co-author and ancient-DNA specialist Eske Willerslev, of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
"I hadn’t expected anything like this. A genome related to present-day western Eurasian populations and modern Native Americans as well was really puzzling in the beginning. How could this happen?"
So what’s new?
The arm bone of a three-year-old boy from the Mal’ta site near the shores of Lake Baikal in south-central Siberia (map) yielded what may be the oldest genome of modern humans ever sequenced.
DNA from the remains revealed genes found today in western Eurasians in the Middle East and Europe, as well as other aspects unique to Native Americans, but no evidence of any relation to modern East Asians.
A second individual genome sequenced from material found at the site and dated to 17,000 years ago revealed a similar genetic structure.
It also provided evidence that humans occupied this region of Siberia throughout the entire brutally cold period of the Last Glacial Maximum, which ended about 13,000 years ago.
Why is it important?
Prevailing theories suggest that Native Americans are descended from a group of East Asians who crossed the Bering Sea via a land bridge perhaps 16,500 years ago, though some sites may evidence an earlier arrival.
"This study changes this idea because it shows that a significant minority of Native American ancestry actually derives not from East Asia but from a people related to present-day western Eurasians," Willerslev said.
"It’s approximately one-third of the genome, and that is a lot," he added. "So in that regard I think it’s changing quite a bit of the history."
While the land bridge still formed the gateway to America, the study now portrays Native Americans as a group derived from the meeting of two different populations, one ancestral to East Asians and the other related to western Eurasians, explained Willerslev, whose research was published in the November 20 edition of the journal Nature.
"The meeting of those two groups is what formed Native Americans as we know them." (Learn more about National Geographic’s Genographic Project.)
What does this mean?
Willerslev believes the discovery provides simpler and more likely explanations to long-standing controversies related to the peopling of the Americas.
"Although we know that North Americans are related to East Asians, it’s striking that no contemporary East Asian populations really resemble Native Americans," he said.
"It’s not like you can say that they are really closely related to Japanese, Chinese, or Koreans, so there seems to be something missing. But this result makes a lot of sense regarding why they don’t fit so well genetically with contemporary East Asians—because one-third of their genome is derived from another population."
The findings could also allow reinterpretation of archaeological and anthropological evidence, like the famed Kennewick Man, whose remains don’t look much like modern-day Native American or East Asian populations, according to some interpretations.
"Maybe, if he looks like something else, it’s because a third of his ancestry isn’t coming from East Asia but from something like the western Eurasians."
Many questions remain unanswered, including where and when the mixing of west Eurasian and East Asian populations occurred.
"It could have been somewhere in Siberia or potentially in the New World," Willerslev said.
"I think it’s much more likely that it occurred in the Old World. But the only way to address that question would be to sequence more ancient skeletons of Native Americans and also Siberians."
Intriguing questions also exist about the nature of the advanced Upper Paleolithic Mal’ta society that now appears to figure in Native American genomes.
The Siberian child “was found buried with all kinds of cultural items, including Venus figurines, which have been found from Lake Baikal west all the way to Europe.
"So now we know that the individual represented with this culture is a western Eurasian, even though he was found very far east. It’s an interesting question how closely related this individual might have been to the individuals carving these figurines at the same time in Europe and elsewhere."
Bones with possible human tool marks could point to an earlier human arrival in the Americas, a new study says.
When did people get to the Americas? The answer remains a subject of fiery debate.
Most scientists agree that humans began arriving in the Americas between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago, and the Clovis people of North and Central America are generally considered the “first Americans.”
But new fossil evidence from a streambed in southern Uruguay could challenge such theories.
Results published November 19 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggest the presence at the site of human hunters who may have killed giant sloths and other megafauna. That itself isn’t odd, but the site, called Arroyo del Vizcaíno, has been radiocarbon dated to between 29,000 and 30,000 years old—thousands of years before people were thought to be there.
"That’s pretty old for a site that has evidence of human presence, particularly in South America," said study co-author Richard Fariña, a paleontologist at Uruguay’s Universidad de la República.
"So, it’s strange and unexpected."
What’s the controversy?
Giant sloths, saber-toothed cats, oversize armadillos, and other large mammals once roamed the Americas—a diversity that would easily rival an African savannah today.
But by 11,000 years ago, many of the species had disappeared, likely due to climate change or the arrival of human hunters in the New World. But when exactly humans got here, and how they arrived, remains unknown.
In 1997, severe drought forced local farmers to drain a lagoon in Arroyo del Vizcaíno, which exposed a mysterious bed of gigantic bones.
After a series of bureaucratic roadblocks, paleontologists excavated the site in 2011 and 2012, unearthing over a thousand fossils. “From the paleontological point of view, that is absolutely marvelous in itself,” Fariña said.
Many of the bones belong to three extinct ground sloth species, mainly Lestodon armatus. Weighing in at up to four tons, the animals “were the size of smallish elephants,” he said.
<img src=”http://i3.endoftheinter.net/i/n/2ba648738fbe14ba85fca12c6ea5cfad/73652_990x742-cb1384961040.jpg” />
Fossils from other common South American megafauna turned up in the mud as well: three species of glyptodonts, or armadillo ancestors; a hippo-like animal called a toxodon, which has no living relatives; a South American saber-toothed cat (Smilodon populator); and an elephant-like stegomastodon, among others.
Some of the bones bear telltale markings of human tools, which suggests the animals were hunted for food. The team also found a potentially human-made scraper that could have been used on dry animal hides, and stone flakes.
Why is it important?
Clues from the site point to a human presence at Arroyo del Vizcaíno much earlier than accepted theories of migration. Fariña and his team are both excited and cautious about their results.
Farino said the strength of the new evidence lies in the team’s methodology and the fact that two of the bones they tested for dating also bore markings similar to those made by human tools. “The association can’t be closer than it is,” he said.
The date of Arroyo del Vizcaíno may make some archaeologists cringe: South America’s earliest human settlement at Monte Verde in Chile dates to only 14,000 years ago.
What does this mean?
The study certainly does not prove definitively that humans were killing giant sloths 30,000 years ago in South America.
The fossils found at Arroyo del Vizcaíno might simply be a product of nature mimicking human tools, and the authors acknowledge that possibility.
"South America played an exceptionally important role in the peopling of the Americas, and I’m pretty sure we have some significant surprises waiting for us," Bonnie Pitblado, an archaeologist at the University of Oklahoma who was not associated with the study, said in an email.
"Maybe people killing sloths at [the Arroyo del Vizcaíno site] 30,000 years ago is one of them, maybe it’s not—but it certainly isn’t going to hurt to have it on our collective radar screen as we continue to contemplate the peopling of the New World."
The Uruguayan team has further excavations and environmental reconstruction studies planned for the site.
Fariña estimates that it could yield a thousand more bones, and they plan to build a local museum to house the site’s many fossils.
Human-sacrifice rituals at an ancient Moche temple in Peru likely featured the killing of war captives from distant valleys, according to an analysis of bones and teeth at the site.
The human remains—mutilated, dismembered, and buried in pits—help explain territorial struggles among the Moche, who ruled Peru’s arid coast from around 100 A.D. to 850 A.D.
Debate among scholars over Moche human sacrifices has centered on the question of whether they were ritual killings of elites or of war prisoners, says archaeologist John Verano of Tulane University in New Orleans, one of the authors of the report, available online and in an upcoming issue of Journal of Archaeological Science.
"They look like war captives," Verano concludes, pointing to the study’s bone chemistry results, which suggest that sacrifice victims came from far away in the late days of the Moche empire.
Appeasing the Gods
The Moche left behind distinctive pottery, irrigation works, and giant adobe mounds, some adorned with murals depicting war captives.
Among the largest-known Moche ruins is the brick mound site of Huacas de Moche, located near the modern-day city of Trujillo, Peru. The mound consists of three platforms connected by corridors, plazas, and temples.
Roughly 70 sacrifice victims have been found there so far—an indication of frequent human offerings. That alone suggests the slaughter of captured warriors rather than rare killings of elites to appease the gods in religious rituals, Verano says. The victims were killed, displayed, and later swept into pits.
"You don’t deny a proper burial, deflesh, mutilate, and turn your elites’ bones into trophies as they did [at Huacas de Moche]," says Verano, whose work has been partly supported by National Geographic Society grants. "You don’t make a drinking mug out of your elite [ruler’s] skull."
Sacrifice ceremonies are depicted in Moche artwork, often showing the killing of bound, naked men. Priests and priestesses are portrayed offering goblets filled with the victims’ blood to supernatural beings.
The sacrifice victims’ bones were then left for vultures.
Victims From Far Away
The new report is the result of work on the remains of 34 people, some buried in neatly ordered graves and others in burial pits, the latter including young men with their throats slit and bones dismembered.
The chief author of the report, J. Marla Toyne of the University of Central Florida in Orlando, led efforts to analyze oxygen isotopes in the remains of the dead.
The water that people drink leaves specific oxygen traces in bones and teeth, which can help determine where victims lived, both in infancy and in the last decade of their lives. In the case of the Huaca de Moche burials, the male elite—buried in neat graves—were all locals who drank the local river water.
A Long-Term Shift
In the heyday of Huacas de Moche, around 600 A.D., perhaps 25,000 people lived there. Two large temples, the Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) and the Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun), sat atop the mound.
"Who you are choosing to kill, who you are choosing to sacrifice, says a lot about how you see other people," Toyne says. "We are seeing a long-term shift in the origins of sacrifice victims to farther and farther away."
For the past two decades, archaeologists have suspected that some Moche states pursued empire-building along the Andean coast, says Peruvian Ministry of Culture archaeologist Luis Jaime Castillo Butters, who was not part of the study team.
"The Southern Moche, based in the Huacas de Moche, seem to have been the truly expansionist ones," he wrote by email. "Marla Toyne’s research proves this with isotopic information."
Game of Thrones
When Huacas de Moche was first discovered 50 years ago, archaeologists thought that it was the capital of a long-standing Moche empire rather than a city that had expanded its geographic dominance over time.
The new study suggests that Moche centers vied with each other for power and resources, which likely led to warfare. The battles led to the taking of captives, and it seems that captives were slain in sacrifice ceremonies.
Another intriguing result of the bone analysis is that elite women buried at the temples also appear to have largely come from elsewhere.
That points to a “patrilocal” system for the Moche, suggesting that they traded “princess brides” between centers, Verano says. “Not so different from now in some places.”
Overall, the findings are updating the view of the enigmatic Moche, who didn’t leave behind records as detailed as those of contemporaries such as the Maya of Central America.
"We have to do a lot of careful detective work, still," says Verano, who has been part of excavation work at Huaca de Moches for more than a decade.
Petén, Guatemala.- La estructura descubierta revela que ese centro arqueológico precolombino maya, con la intervención de la ciudad maya de Naranjo, estableció una dinastía que promovió una alianza con el Reino Kan, en la época de conflictos con Tikal, durante la milenaria cultura que se asentó en lo que hoy es el departamento de Petén, en el norte de Guatemala y fronterizo con México y Belice.
Antes se suponía que Holmul, conocido como “un mundo celestial entre dioses y ancestros”, tuvo relación con Tikal, en el Siglo V, junto a la llegada de los guerreros teotihuacanos al área maya.
Y también que sucesivamente Holmul había entrado en la esfera de influencia de Naranjo, que se había involucrado en guerras y alianzas contra Tikal encabezada por el Reino Kan, explicó el arqueólogo guatemalteco Francisco Estrada-Belli, descubridor del friso, que se considera como el más espectacular hasta ahora visto de la civilización maya.
“Sin embargo, el texto encontrado en el friso relata de una forma muy explícita que Naranjo intervino directamente para establecer una dinastía más aliada al Reino Kan, en un centro como Holmul, a tan solo 35 kilómetros de Tikal”, aseguró el experto.
El texto, de difícil lectura por su antigüedad, fue descifrado por Alex Tekovinine, epigrafista de la Universidad de Harvard y colaborador de la investigación.
DEDICADO A HOLMUL
Estrada-Belli dijo que el edificio donde se encontró el friso “fue dedicado a Holmul por Ajwosaj, el rey más importante de la vecina ciudad de Naranjo y vasallo del poderoso Reino Kan, también conocido como El Mirador”.
En la inscripción se afirma que ese rey llegó a “poner orden” a una serie de dioses locales y al posible gobernante Och Chan Yopaat (el rayo entró al cielo).
El Naranjo es un sitio arqueológico maya situado a 18 kilómetros de la laguna de Yaxhá, cerca de Nakún y de la frontera con Belice, y aunque hasta ahora se desconoce su origen, se sabe que su nombre original fue Wal Kab’nal o Saal, ya que fue capital del Reino de Saal durante el periodo clásico, y que fue conquistada por El Caracol en el año 631.
Desde ese momento se convirtió en enemiga de Tikal y atacó varias veces Yaxhá. A finales del periodo clásico tardío se dejaron de esculpir estelas y sus ruinas fueron redescubiertas en 1905 por el explorador austroalemán Teobert Maler.
Mientras, El Mirador o Reino Kan, es una cuenca delimitada naturalmente que se encuentra en el norte del departamento de Petén, colindante al norte con el estado de Campeche, en México. La cuenca abarca una superficie de más de 2.000 kilómetros cuadrados. Al este, el sur y el oeste está rodeada por un conjunto de montañas cársticas y se ubica dentro de la reserva de la Biosfera Maya.
Estrada-Belli comentó a Efe que el edificio en el que se encontró el friso “está totalmente enterrando en la ciudad de Holmul, que fue una de las más interesantes de la cultura maya pese a que era más pequeña”.
"Con este hallazgo estamos llenando un gran vacío de información de los gobernantes locales y su relación con gobernantes de otras ciudades", porque se identifican tres personajes principales con tocados de plumas y collares de jade que están sentados sobre una cabeza o espíritus witz (cerro) o criaturas monstruosas, apuntó.
El arqueólogo dijo que ellos creen que el personaje que está en el centro, Och Chan Yopaat, es el más importante y presume que los tres fueron miembros de una dinastía porque están conectados a través de los espíritus emplumados.
Según Estrada-Belli, entre esa composición hay dos personajes más que parece que fueron dioses ancestrales.
“Fueron personajes políticos que están en una zona celestial porque hay una banda que corre arriba del friso, que tiene como estrellas y planetas que están verificando el cielo en el mundo de los dioses de los antepasados”, señaló.
El descubrimiento abre una serie de indicios para poner en un contexto histórico la situación de las tierras bajas mayas cuando se expandió el poder del Reino Kan en Holmul, que era una ciudad pequeña que estaba en la ruta del comercio.
No obstante, el arqueólogo apuntó que Holmul fue un reino independiente, aunque subordinado al de Kan.
“En la tumba, encontrada durante la primera etapa de la investigación, se localizaron unos restos humanos rodeado de 28 piezas cerámicas integradas, por tres juegos de nueve cada una, y otra que es única, y tiene la figura de un dios del inframundo”, detalló el experto.
Se cree que la osamenta pertenece a un gobernante o miembro de la elite de Holmul, que está a 50 kilómetros de la ciudad de Melchor de Mencos, en el departamento de Petén, que es el poblado más cercado al centro precolombino.
Las piezas están bajo análisis y, al término de la investigación, se entregarán al Museo de Arqueología para que se determine si las expone al público.
EN LA SOMBRA DURANTE CASI 100 AÑOS
Las investigaciones que realiza Estrada-Belli, cuyos padres son de origen italiano, están apoyadas por la asociación National Geographic Society y la Fundación del Patrimonio Cultural y Natural Maya (Pacunam) de Guatemala, así como por la estadounidense Alphawood Maya Archaeology Initiative, con el aval académico de la Universidad de Boston (EU).
"Este es un hallazgo extraordinario que solo una vez se da en la vida de un arqueólogo. Es una gran obra de arte que también nos proporciona mucha información sobre la función y significado del edificio, lo cual era el enfoque de nuestra investigación. Teníamos la esperanza de encontrar algunos indicios sobre el porqué de este edificio y de su entierro, pero algo así va mas allá de cualquier expectativa", sostiene Estrada-Belli.
Las investigaciones en el norte de Guatemala desde el año 2000 han dado lugar a varios descubrimientos importantes,como la ciudad de Cival, una de las más antiguas de las tierras bajas mayas, y pinturas murales que documentan encuentros entre personajes mayas y teotihuacanos en la época clásica.
En 1910-1911 el arqueólogo Raymond Merwin, de la Universidad de Harvard, realizó la primera excavación arqueológica científica en Holmul, documentó la riqueza arquitectónica del sitio y descubrió tumbas con espectaculares ofrendas, pero sin poder completar un mapa del lugar, de acuerdo con Estrada-Belli.
Ello hizo que la importancia de Holmul permaneciera en la sombra durante casi cien años, hasta que las vasijas policromadas que se encuentran en el Peabody Museum de Harvard University fueron estudiadas por varios expertos.
Debido a la falta de inscripciones el sitio permaneció en completo abandono en lo que se refiere a la investigación científica, lo que causó una gran depredación en las décadas de los setenta, ochenta y noventa, hasta que en el 2000 se retomaron los estudios sistemáticos para su protección.
Holmul está a una elevación promedio de 200 metros sobre el nivel del mar, en una serranía de piedra caliza, y el área central explorada entre el 2000-2001 comprendió tres grupos principales de tipo acrópolis, separadas por plazas y calzadas, en un área total ocupada por edificios mayores de 14 hectáreas, según la investigación del arqueólogo.
En 2011 se contaron catorce estelas lisas y seis altares en el centro ceremonial. También se descubrieron cuatro estelas lisas en cada uno de los sitios menores, conocidos como Cival, To’t, Riverona y Sufricaya.
"Noble Priest", one of the three sculptures carved in basalt stone that the Lowe Art Museum of the University of Miami returned to Mexico. The sculptures had been stolen by Leonardo Augustus Patterson, a famous art dealer currently imprisoned in Spain, an official source announced on September 05, 2013 in Mexico City.
Given the measures that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs (SRE), the Attorney General’s office (PGR), the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Institute of Arts and Literature (INBA) have adopted in order to recover protected cultural property that concerns the Mexican Nation, it has been informed that the past 15 of August, the Lowe Museum of Art of the University of Miami has returned to the Mexican state three archaeological pieces of great size:
They are the following archaeological Works:
• “Snake head”; carved in basalt attributed to the Early Postclassic period (900 – 1200 AD) from the Mesoamerican region of the Central High Plateau. (39.3 x 85 centimeters) [15.4 x 33.4 inches].
• “Tlaloc, God of rain” (200 - 900 AD); stele carved in basalt rock, with the representation of this Mesoamerican deity. (71 x 40.6 centimeters) [27.9 x 15.9 inches].
• “Noble or priest” (600 - 200 AD); stele carved in basalt rock from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, (146 x 95.5 x 6.8 centimeters) [57.4 x 37.5 x 2.6 centimeters].
The return of the archaeological works returned above is a result of the direct intervention of the SRE, the PGR, INAH and the General Consulate of Mexico in Miami. Also, the Lowe Museum contributed directly to its return helping corroborate that the pieces where unlawfully extracted from Mexican territory.
The conclusive evidence of this case helped corroborate that the pieces were found linked to illegitimate operations of Leonardo Augusts Patterson, identified internationally as an alleged trafficker of cultural goods, who is actually being detained in Spain for the same reasons.
The return of the pieces was made without setback within the timeframe set by the Program for the Recovery of Cultural Goods that the SRE, the PGR, INAH and the INBA have implemented in a permanent manner.
The Mexican government thanks the Lowe Museum of Art of the University of Miami for their good disposition, which was fundamental in order to conclude the case’s investigation.
Given the inherent bond between the Mexican identity and the archaeological pieces belonging to cultures anciently established in Mexican territory, as well as their unique and irreplaceable nature the SRE, PGR and INAH have adopted permanent measures to give them protection and procure their recovery in the cases of pieces that are suspected of being unlawfully removed from Mexican territory.
Researchers have discovered a mass grave in an artificial cave in the historical Maya city of Uxul (Mexico). Marks on the bones indicate that the individuals buried in the cave were decapitated and dismembered around 1,400 years ago. The scientists assume that the victims were either prisoners of war or nobles from Uxul itself.
For the last five years, archaeologists of the department of Anthropology of the Americas of the University of Bonn have been excavating in the historical Maya city of Uxul in Campeche (Mexico) with the aim of researching the origins and the collapse of regional states in the Maya lowlands. The project headed by Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube and Dr. Kai Delvendahl from the University of Bonn, as well as Dr. Antonio Benavides from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) has now made a sensational find: they have uncovered the skeletons of 24 people in an approximately 32 square meter artificial cave that had formerly been used as a water reservoir.
"Aside from the large number of interred individuals, it already became apparent during the excavation that the skeletons were no longer in their original anatomical articulation," says the archaeologist Nicolaus Seefeld, who studied the sophisticated water supply system of Uxul for his doctoral thesis and discovered the mass grave. All of the skulls were lying scattered around the interior of the cave, in no relation to the rest of the bodies. Even the majority of the lower jaws were separated from the heads. In contrast, detailed examination determined that the limbs of the legs and hands were in some cases completely preserved. "This observation excluded the possibility that this mass grave was a so-called secondary burial, in which the bones of the deceased are placed at a new location," says Nicolaus Seefeld.
Indications of violent death and dismemberment
According to the conclusions reached by the scientists, the spatial pattern of the bones indicates that the corpses of the 24 people had been decapitated and dismembered. Signs of violent death could be proven for the majority. “The observed hatchet marks on the cervical vertebra are a clear indication of decapitation,” Seefeld reports. The forehead of another skull shows an unhealed skull fracture, probably caused by a blow from a cudgel. In addition, numerous skulls show signs of cutting with sharp objects, which might originate from stone hatchets.
Due to their being covered by clay, the bones are so well-preserved that it was possible to distinguish the age and sex of 15 of the 24 individuals. These include 13 men and two women who were aged from 18 to 42 at the time of their death. Analyses of teeth and bones showed that several of the deceased suffered from malnutrition and had lost several teeth to tooth decay.
Some of the dead had tooth inserts of jade. The scientists interpret this as a sign of high social status. However, the archaeologists of the University of Bonn don’t yet know whether they are prisoners of war from another Maya city that were sacrificed in Uxul or nobles from Uxul itself. Only with the help of isotope analysis will it be possible to clarify whether the dead were members of the local population or originate from another region of the lowlands. “However, the discovery of the mass grave proves that the dismemberment of prisoners of war and opponents often represented in Maya art was in fact practiced,” says Prof. Dr. Nikolai Grube.
Stele 1 still has stucco remains, because this material is rarely conserved in tropical weather after so long. The piece gives name to the place, since it makes reference to “Red Stone”. Photo: Mauricio Marat/INAH.
The 19 steles found in the ancient Mayan city of Chactun, recently discovered in the southeast of Campeche, will allow archaeologists to collect new data about the ancient inhabitants of this region, located north of the River Bec, of which we know little about. The archaeologist and epigraphist Octavio Esparza Olguin signaled that epigraphic registries are not abundant in this region, which is why the pieces found are of such importance.
The expert in epigraphy, who is part of the expedition endorsed by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), and who advanced deep into the Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, explained that from the pieces found at the site, three are in a good state of conservation, and seven still allow the observation of hieroglyphic writing, although its conservation state is so precarious that events and precise dates are difficult to appreciate. Another nine remain severely eroded.
Esparza Olguien said that it’s exceptional that Stele 1 still has stucco remains, because this material is rarely conserved in tropical weather after so long. The piece gives name to the place, since it makes reference to a “Red Stone” or “Big Stone”, which was set up by a character named K’ihnich B’ahlam, in the year 751 AD.
Octavio Esparza, from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), said that many of the pieces found at the site –which flourished in the Late Classic period (600 through 900 AD)– were reused some time later. “The majority of the fragments were placed in the ball courts and the plazas in the West and Southeast”.
The epigraphist mentioned that Stele 14 is a clear example of how this site was used by later civilizations, since it was buried and a wall was attached to its front, which prevents archaeologists from seeing the character clearly, although a long calendar date corresponding to 731 AD and part of a lunar cycle can be distinguished.
They also found remains of late offerings in some monuments, such as the case of Stele 1, where it was possible to rescue some ceramic censers that were deposited towards the end of the Late Classic period or beginning the Posclassic period (900 through 1200 AD). “Many of these pieces –added the expert– where placed by people who were on a pilgrimage as an act of respect, although they probably didn’t understand the meaning of the hieroglyphic texts”.
A team led by archaeologist Ivan Sprajc, has announced the discovery of an ancient Maya city called Chactún, “Red Stone” or “Piedra Grande” . Located in the southeast area of Campeche, it represents one of the largest sites of the Mexican Central Lowlands.
Discovered a few weeks ago, the archaeologists believe that the city was at the centre of a vast region between 600 and 900 AD. The extent of the site measures more than 22 hectares, and contains a number of monuments, with at least a dozen of them bearing inscriptions
Hidden in the jungle for centuries
Throughout the centuries, Chactún remained hidden in the jungle of the northern Biosphere Reserve of Calakmul, which is part of an area over 3,000 square kilometres, located between the Rio Bec and Chenes region. This area until now, has remained as a total blank on the archaeological map of the Maya region.
“It is one of the largest sites in the Central Lowlands, comparable in extent and magnitude of its buildings with Becan, Nadzcaan and El Palmar in Campeche,” said the Sprajc, who works for the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.
The ancient Maya metropolis is one of 80 sites that have been identified by the Archaeological Survey Project in Southeastern Campeche, which began in 1996. The location of these sites was based primarily on recognition from large-scale aerial photography.
Some sites like Uxul and Kings wall had previously been described by explorers such as Karl Ruppert, in the 1930s. However, Chactún was largely ignored by scientific expeditions until today.
Encouraged archaeological exploration
In 1989 the region was declared part of the Biosphere Reserve and archaeological exploration was made possible.
“With aerial photographs examined stereoscopically, we find many features that were obviously architectural remains. From there we took the coordinates and the next step was to locate the ancient routes used by tappers and loggers to reach the area, ” explained Sprajc.
From the road leading to the town of Xpujil Hopelchén 16 kilometres are travelled. To reach the camp where the team of archaeologists overnight it is necessary to go for almost two hours in the tropical forest. The road is passable only with four wheel drive trucks and the archaeologists must continually stop to cut back the vegetation that blocks their path.
Three monumental complexes
Curiously, despite its proximity to Rio Bec the building style appears to have closer associations with Petén architecture.
The site comprises three monumental complexes. The west, covers an area of over 11 hectares, while the southeast and northeast together account for a further 11 hectares.
In these spaces are scattered numerous pyramidal structures, two ballgame courts, patios, plazas, sculptured monuments and residential areas. The tallest pyramid, 23 metres high, is located in the west complex, however, the stelae and altars, some of which still have the remains of stucco on them, best reflect the splendour of the city in the Late Classic (600-900 AD).
Of the 19 stelae recorded so far, three are well preserved. One gives a name to the place, saying that the ruler K’inich B’ahlam “fixed the Red Stone (or Stone Great) in 751” – according to the preliminary interpretation by epigrapher Octavio Esparza Olguin.
A survey of the area has been conducted in order to obtain a three-dimensional map. Meanwhile, Octavio Esparza, archaeologist and epigraphist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico is recording the stelae and altars. Several of these monuments, he said, were reused in later times, possibly late Late Classic and even Early Postclassic.
“These people may not have known the meaning of the monuments, as some of the stelae were found upside down, though they knew they were important and worshipped them, because we found ceramic offerings in front of some of them,” he said.
Another example of reuse, said Ivan Sprajc was stela 18 which was found at the rear corner in the ball game court of the southeast complex. “This reuse of monuments is another interesting aspect of this place, something which we have not found evidence for elsewhere. ”
Powerful Popocatépetl Eruption Caught on Video
Popocatépetl volcano unleashed a powerful eruption early Monday afternoon.
At 1:23 p.m. local time, cameras from Webcams de México pointed at the volcano captured an almost 2.5 mile high explosive column of ash and molten rock. Video shows a strong shockwave soon after ‘El Popo’ erupted.
Cenapred, Mexico’s National Center for Prevention of Disasters, maintains the warming level for the Popocatépetl at yellow phase two, the fourth step on a seven-level warning scale. Evacuations are activated at the sixth step, level red. An estimated 20 million people from the states of Puebla, Tlaxcala, Morelos, State of Mexico and DF would be affected in a level red Popocatépetl eruption.
Authorities have recorded 78 low and medium strength exhalations from ‘Don Goyo,’ as he’s affectionately referred to by local villagers, in the last 24 hours.
Read more about Popocatépetl
Mexican archaeologists have identified more than 400 animal species in some 60 offerings made to the gods at the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, including molluscs, fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, the National Institute of Anthropology and History, or INAH, said.
The scientists have recovered, “for example, fish from coral reefs in the Atlantic Ocean, reptiles including crocodiles, snakes and turtles, as well as birds like toucans and quetzals, and large mammals from the tropics like the jaguar,” INAH biologist Norma Valentin Maldonado said Friday.
“Such fauna has been found in sacrifices to the rain god Tlaloc and to Huitzilopochtli, god of war, from the fourth to the seventh stages (1440-1520) of the Great Temple’s construction. The animals are alway exotic species, spectacularly beautiful, or with rough, spiny hides, sometimes dangerous or venomous,” she said.
Valentin said that several of the animals were the object of a kind of ancient taxidermy, in which some of the bones were left inside to maintain the shape of the skin and keep it from ripping.
As for the large mammals, she said that around six wolves, two jaguars, 13 pumas and a single bone from the back leg of a wildcat have been identified and studied.
According to the expert, “molluscs have the greatest presence in the Mexica offerings; in just about all the sacrifices at least one of them is found, so that some 300 species have been reported in the Great Temple from both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.”
“Next in abundance are 60 fish species, chiefly from coral reefs,” she said.
The ritual use of all these animal species and their symbolism will be presented beginning June 8 at a round of conferences at the recently opened Gallery 6 “Flora and Fauna” in the Great Temple, adjacent to the capital’s principal square, the Zocalo.
Information surrounding an exceptional effigy vessel, found a few months ago in a mortuary temple at the Atzompa Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca, has been released by archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The ancient city of Atzompa, was one of the centers of the ancient metropolis of Monte Alban.
The ceramic piece with human characteristics is approximately 1,200 year-old, and has been recovered nearly intact with its red, brown and grayish green coloring present.
According to the description of archaeologist Eduardo Garcia Wigueras, the effigy vessel find is exceptional in that the elaborate costume of the character is represented in detail, consisting of a layer of feathers, tassels, necklace, and earrings. There are also a number of iconographic references that refer to the name of the person it’s meant to represent. It is likely that the individual personified was known as Tremor ‘8 ‘.
In addition to the effigy vessel found was another smaller red vessel with the representation of a goddess, and the skeletal remains of two individuals.
Another highlight of the effigy vessel is his 34 cm high headdress, which is represented as a reptile with feathers and surrounded by open jaws.