A University of Calgary archaeologist is sharing new evidence to suggest powerful warrior queens in the Mayan civilization were not an anomaly.
A University of Calgary archaeologist is sharing new evidence to suggest powerful warrior queens in the Mayan civilization were not an anomaly.
According to Kathryn Reese-Taylor, a large contingent of Mayan warrior queens emerged between 600 to 800 AD.
Her research suggests these queens made a profound impact on their society in areas ranging from politics, culture and commerce to warfare blasts through previous ideas surrounding the role of women in Mayan society.
"As I began researching, I noticed the existing literature suggested there was only a few isolated examples of these warrior queens in Mayan society," said Reese-Taylor, an associate professor at the University of Calgary.
"I started to realize that was bogus. There were, in fact, many examples of noble warrior women."
Reese-Taylor began researching the idea in earnest after a 2004 archaeological expedition to the Great Pyramids of Naachtun in the forests of Guatemala — one of the most remote, inaccessible sites of the Mayan world.
There the research team discovered a massive stone pillar depicting a fierce Naachtun queen standing upon a conquered foe and Reese-Taylor says she decided to look for more evidence of Mayan queens from that era.
While researching a book on the topic, she discovered the appearances of such figures spikes dramatically between 600 and 800 AD, with hundreds of examples popping up in that time frame compared to almost nothing in earlier periods.
"It’s suddenly this quantum leap in the number of women warriors depicted on these royal monuments," she said. "I began to amass this data and look at why this role might have emerged for women at this time."
While research on the warrior queens goes back to the late 19th century, Reese-Taylor says earlier archaeologists simply didn’t have enough information — such as the ability to decipher hieroglyphics — to make sense of what they were investigating.
Up until the 1970s, researchers viewed the Maya as peaceful priest scholars who studied time, rather than warriors whose society involved sacrifice.
It’s possible researchers in the post-World War era had a cultural desire for the possibility of utopian societies, and molded their understanding of the Mayan world to fulfill that fantasy.
As well, cultural biases may have put blinders on the research.
"In the late 19th and early 20th century, the idea of women as warriors was completely unheard of," Reese-Taylor said. "Women didn’t lead battles. Figures like Catherine the Great and Joan of Arc were thought of as the exceptions of history."
Reese-Taylor’s research is currently featured in the March 2014 issue ofDiscover magazine in an article entitled The Power and Glory of the Maya Queens.”
New evidence establishes for the first time that Cahokia, a sprawling, pre-Columbian city situated at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, hosted a sizable population of immigrants. Cahokia was an early experiment in urban life, researchers say.
Descubren una tumba de tiro intacta en Colima
This is particularly important for my area of study in understanding when and where particular figure styles come from.
New analysis of two spear-throwers excavated nearly a century ago in the Ozark Mountains reveals what one archaeologist calls an “uncanny” similarity to those used in the ancient Southwest and Meso…
MEXICO CITY (AP) — Archaeologists on Friday announced the discovery of “an exceptional” ancient burial site under an apartment building in Mexico City
The findings, based on the only burial from the Clovis culture, reveal these prehistoric toolmakers are the direct ancestors of many contemporary Native Americans, and are closely related to all Native Americans.
By simulating the environment when corn was first exploited by people and then domesticated, Smithsonian scientists discovered that corn’s ancestor, a wild grass called teosinte, may have looked very different then than it does today. The fact that it looks more like corn under these conditions may help to explain how teosinte came to be selected by early farmers who turned it into one of the most important staple crops in the world.
The vegetative and flowering structures of modern teosinte are very different from those of corn. These and other differences led to a century-long dispute as to whether teosinte could really be the ancestor of corn.
"We grew teosinte in the conditions that it encountered 10,000 years ago during the early Holocene period: temperatures 2-3 degrees Celsius cooler than today’s with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels at around 260 parts per million," said Dolores Piperno, senior scientist and curator of archaeobotany and South American archaeology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, who led the project. "Intriguingly, the teosinte plants grown under past conditions exhibit characteristics more like corn: a single main stem topped by a single tassel, a few, very short branches tipped by female ears and synchronous seed maturation.
After the Industrial Revolution, carbon dioxide rose to today’s 405 parts per million, the level in the control chamber where teosinte plants look like plants in the wild today — tall, with many long branches tipped by tassels and seed maturation taking place over a period of a few months. Co-author Klaus Winter usually studies the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on tropical plants as a senior staff scientist at STRI. Piperno and Winter devised a scheme to essentially travel back in time by comparing plants grown in modern conditions with plants grown in the early Holocene chamber.
"Now it appears to be an open question when in the Holocene teosinte became the plant very distinctive from maize in vegetative architecture and inflorescence sexuality that we see today and use as the baseline for research on maize domestication," said Piperno. "When humans first began to cultivate teosinte about 10,000 years ago, it was probably more maize-like — naturally exhibiting some characteristics previously thought to result from human selection and domestication. The environment may have played a significant, if serendipitous, role in the transition through inducing phenotypic plasticity that gave early farmers a head start."
Phenotypic plasticity is an organism’s ability to change in response to the environment, causing genetically identical organisms to look very different when they live in different conditions. As they formulate a “new modern evolutionary synthesis,” in part with concepts that Darwin could not have known of, evolutionary biologists continue to debate the importance of the environment and plasticity on evolutionary change and the origins of the diverse forms of life on Earth today. However, new evidence shows that these environmental-phenotypic interactions are in a growing number of organisms. This is one of the first studies to examine the influence of these processes on plant domestication.
"Extending these concepts to domestication research allows anthropologists to become more fully engaged in modern evolutionary theory and practice," Piperno said
Fragments of human bones that show cuts and prolonged exposure to fire, have allowed investigators to conclude that during the Post Classic period (900 through 1521 AD) rulers, priests and some high ranking warriors practiced cannibalism as a religious rite.
Fragments of human bones have cut marks and prolonged exposure to fire
The findings are a result of recent investigations by archaeologist Gabino Lopez Arenas on craniums, tibia, humerus and jaws located among the offerings of the Great Temple and in the surroundings of the historical center. Lopez Arenas explained that the osteological evidence found in the Sacred Grounds of Tenochtitlan, allows the conclusion that individuals were decapitated and dismembered, the majority of which still possessed bland tissue.
Cannibalism”was intended to absorb the divine force that held the body of the sacrificed
“We observed that immediately after the victims were immolated their flesh was removed, this is confirmed because a great quantity of bones had cuts and alterations that were done while the bone was fresh and recently exposed to fire”, he assured. The specialist added that the practice of cannibalism had the purpose of “absorbing the divine strength that remained in the victim’s bodies: To Mexicas, the human victims were the incarnation of the gods they represented, and by eating their flesh they could share their divinity”.
To the Aztecs, the victims were the incarnation of the gods
The archaeologist pointed out that the flesh of those sacrificed was ingested in specific ceremonies by individuals of a high social status, but it wasn’t a common meal in their diet. Lopez Arenas quoted the famous Spanish writer Francisco Cervantes Salazar, whom added that the arms and legs in the cannibalistic ritual were the most appreciated parts and the most frequently eaten, but the hands and the feet exclusively belonged to the priests and rulers. “To give someone these parts was a distinction, since these were considered the most delicious. The blood was never consumed because it was exclusively for the gods”.
Eating human flesh represented a kind of communion with divinity
The investigator also added a quote from Diego Duran to his investigation; he wrote that within the Mexica militia one of the privileges of warriors who attained the rank of tequihua was to eat human meat in certain ceremonies. Lopez Arenas mentioned that these rituals were made in certain dates. For example, during the parties made celebrating the first month of the Mexica calendar (atlacahualo), several children were sacrificed to honor the gods of water or rain, and after they were killed they were cooked and eaten.
Human offerings were given to the priests and eaten in certain ceremonies
Meanwhile, during the tlacaxipehualizli month, those sacrificed in the temple of the god Huitzilopochtli were devoured in the house of the warrior that captured them.
Archaeological finds in the southern part of the western state of Sinaloa suggest that the culture that developed in that region gave rise to the ceramics at the Aztatlan Complex, Mexico’s National Anthropology and History Institute (INAH) said.
More than 200 archaeological sites have been catalogued in the region that enable scientists to understand the dynamic of the human occupation of that region during the pre-Columbian epoch, said INAH in a communique.
In contrast to the belief that only nomadic groups lived there, evidence has been found of various settlements dating back to about the year 250 A.D.
On the basis of this set of finds, archaeologist Luis Alfonso Grave Tirado has developed the hypothesis that the culture that arose in southern Sinaloa and in the northern part of the neighboring state of Nayarit is the one that developed the ceramic style found at the Aztatlan Complex.
“At first, it was said that these ceramics – rich in polychrome and of great beauty in their decoration, including vessels of a type similar to those of the Mixtec-Puebla tradition – originated in central Mexico,” Grave Tirado said.
But after the archaeological investigation of the sites it can be established “that some of these iconographic elements are in southern Sinaloa and northern Nayarit earlier than among the Mixtec people, which date from (as far back as) the year 800 A.D.,” he added.
Nineteen kilometers from San Juan de los Lagos, where the second most frequented sanctuary in Mexico is located, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), unravel a piece of pre Hispanic past which is today known as Los Altos de Jalisco, by the excavation of an ancient ceremonial center known as Teocaltitan.
At least 23 architectonic structures that were built 1500 years ago, between 450 and 900 AD, are distributed in the 20 acres that make up the highest part of the Teocaltitan hill.
To archaeologist Marisol Montejano Esquivias, director of the project, what makes this job in Teocaltitan the most gratifying is that it represents a preserved space in an archaeological context.”
“The interesting thing about Teocaltitan, apart from having Teotihuacan influence, is that it has elements that are very characteristic of the region such as the square architecture, sunken gardens in U-shape, pyramids with closed gardens, ball game courts, etc.”
The first drills and excavations that will be made in 2014 in Platform A of Teocaltitan, are focused on proving that these structures were made solely by men, and that underneath this they can find other archaeological substructures.
After two seasons there have been interventions on the west and north side of the ball court. It is from this area where most materials recovered from the project were found, such as: figurines, stone and turquoise beads that provided for the rituals that happened in this space.
Also, the finding of some copper and shell earrings in the northern part of the ball court indicated that this ceremonial center was used again during the Post Classic period (900 – 1200 AD). The earrings where found in the cranium of a presumably decapitated person.
Also, they have intervened in the sunken garden and the central pyramid that closes the site. In 2012, the center of the garden was excavated in an altar where they found secondary burials, bones that are not in an anatomic position meaning they where extracted from their original resting place and re-buried. This context also corresponds to the reoccupation of Teocaltitan in the Post Classic era.
With the restoration of the perimeter wall of the sunken garden and the ball court, the following year they will start opening the archaeological zone to the visitors.
Archaeologists announced Tuesday that excavations for a Mexico City subway extension have turned up what appears to be an unusual Aztec offering: a dog’s skull with holes that indicate it was displayed on a ritual skull rack normally reserved for human sacrifice victims.
Excavators also found a woman’s skull and two men’s skulls with similar perforations around the temple, which allowed them to be mounted on a public display rack known as a tzompantli.
The find dates to between 1350 and 1521 and is the first time a dog’s skull has been found along with a skull rack, according to Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History. The skull racks usually displayed the severed heads of captured warriors from rival groups, who were sacrificed as an offering to the gods. Few of them have actually been excavated.
"We know that during the conquest some horse skulls were placed on this type of structure, but not dogs," said institute archaeologist Maria de Jesus Sanchez, referring to an account documented by the Spanish conquerors who found the remains of captured colleagues as well as their horses displayed on a rack.
Since the Aztecs didn’t have horses, they may have taken the animals as sacred beasts, or something joined with the horse’s rider.
The Aztecs did have dogs, albeit smaller ones that seldom barked, so they would probably have known what they were putting on display.
"Perhaps there are dogs associated with these altars in other sites and we don’t know it," de Jesus said.
One possible explanation might have been dogs’ ritual importance in death or burial rites. According to some pre-Hispanic beliefs, a dog accompanied his owner in the underworld.
University of Florida archaeologist Susan Gillespie, who was not involved in the project, wrote in an email that the appearance of the female skull was also unusual.
"What little information we have on the use of skull racks indicates that they were the resting place for the heads of war captives, and females generally were not taken in war," Gillespie wrote.
The excavations were carried out as part of a 15-mile (24.5 kilometer) expansion of the city’s subway station. They also uncovered about 100 burials, mostly of children.
As a nomadic cultural historian, my subjects have led me in wildly different directions. I spent every Friday for five years in a dim, dusty reading room in West Orange, New Jersey, formerly a laboratory on the second floor of Thomas Edison’s headquarters, deciphering the blunt-penciled scrawls of the celebrated inventor. Two years after my biography of Edison appeared, I found myself laboring up vertiginous stairs at daybreak in Mexico, photographing the faded ocher outlines of winged snakes etched into stone temples at the vast ruins of Teotihuacán. The daunting treks led to a book on Mesoamerican myth, Legends of the Plumed Serpent.
Those two disparate worlds somehow collided unexpectedly on a recent afternoon in the hushed, temperature-controlled precincts of the National Museum of the American Indian storage facility in Suitland, Maryland. There, staffers pushing a rolling cart ushered one of the museum’s greatest treasures into the high-ceilinged room. Nestled in an acid-free corrugated cardboard container was the earliest known example of telephone technology in the Western Hemisphere, evoking a lost civilization—and the anonymous ancient techie who dreamed it up.
The gourd-and-twine device, created 1,200 to 1,400 years ago, remains tantalizingly functional—and too fragile to test out. “This is unique,” NMAI curator Ramiro Matos, an anthropologist and archaeologist who specializes in the study of the central Andes, tells me. “Only one was ever discovered. It comes from the consciousness of an indigenous society with no written language.”
We’ll never know the trial and error that went into its creation. The marvel of acoustic engineering—cunningly constructed of two resin-coated gourd receivers, each three-and-one-half inches long; stretched-hide membranes stitched around the bases of the receivers; and cotton-twine cord extending 75 feet when pulled taut—arose out of the Chimu empire at its height. The dazzlingly innovative culture was centered in the Río Moche Valley in northern Peru, wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the western Andes. “The Chimu were a skillful, inventive people,” Matos tells me as we don sterile gloves and peer into the hollowed interiors of the gourds. The Chimu, Matos explains, were the first true engineering society in the New World, known as much for their artisanry and metalwork as for the hydraulic canal-irrigation system they introduced, transforming desert into agricultural lands.
The artifact’s recent past is equally mysterious. Somehow—no one knows under what circumstances—it came into the hands of a Prussian aristocrat, Baron Walram V. Von Schoeler. A shadowy Indiana Jones-type adventurer, Von Schoeler began excavating in Peru during the 1930s. He developed the “digging bug,” as he told the New York Times in 1937, at the age of 6, when he stumbled across evidence of a prehistoric village on the grounds of his father’s castle in Germany. Von Schoeler himself may have unearthed the gourd telephone. By the 1940s, he had settled in New York City and amassed extensive holdings of South American ethnographic objects, eventually dispersing his collections to museums around the United States.
The sophisticated culture was eclipsed when the Inca emperor Tupac Yupanqui conquered the Chimu king Minchancaman around 1470. During its heyday, the urban center of Chan Chan was the largest adobe metropolis in pre-Columbian America. The central nucleus covered 2.3 square miles.
Today, the angular contours of ten immense compounds, once surrounded by thick, 30-foot-high walls, are visible. The compounds, or ciudadelas, erected successively by ten Chimu kings, were subdivided into labyrinths of corridors, kitchens, courtyard gardens, wells, burial sites, supply rooms and residential and administrative chambers, or audiencias.
Like the Inca, Matos says, the Chimu were organized as “a top-down society; this instrument would have been made only for, and used by, a member of the elite, perhaps a priest.”
Walls within walls and secluded apartments in the ciudadelas preserved stratification between the ruling elite and the middle and working classes. The NMAI telephone, Matos says, was “a tool designed for an executive level of communication”—perhaps for a courtier-like assistant required to speak into a gourd mouthpiece from an anteroom, forbidden face-to-face contact with a superior conscious of status and of security concerns.
Contemplating the brainstorm that led to the Chimu telephone—a eureka moment undocumented for posterity—summons up its 21st-century equivalent. On January 9, 2007, Steve Jobs strode onto a stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco and announced, “This is the day I have been looking forward to for two and a half years.” As he swiped the touchscreen of the iPhone, it was clear that the paradigm in communications technology had shifted. The unsung Edison of the Chimu must have experienced an equivalent, incandescent exhilaration when his (or her) device first transmitted sound from chamber to chamber.
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