Pre-Columbian News


"A massive stone sculpture of the Aztec goddess Tlaltecuhtli is displayed for the first time prior to the opening of the exposition "Moctezuma II, Times and Destiny of a Ruler" at Mexico City's Templo Mayor museum, Wednesday, June 16 2010. The largest Aztec stone sculpture ever found with its original coloring, the deity sat atop a Mexico City site where archaeologists believe the ashes of Aztec rulers were buried. Although no burial site has been found, offerings have been found nearby since 2007 and now archaeologists plan to dig a lateral tunnel in hopes of finding the tombs they still believe are nearby. AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo. "
By: Mark Stevenson, Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP).- Archaeologists found some of the richest and most unusual Aztec offerings ever in excavations under a mammoth slab depicting an earth goddess and said Wednesday they hope to uncover an emperor's tomb nearby. The seven offerings of strange and unparalleled oddities found under the stone slab depicting the goddess Tlaltecuhtli include the skeleton of a dog or wolf dressed in turquoise ear plugs, jadeite necklaces and golden bells on its feet. The 4-meter (13-foot) long carving of Tlaltecuhtli (tlahl-tay-KOO-tlee) was found in 2006 near the edge of the Templo Mayor pyramid in downtown Mexico City. It was lifted out in 2007 and archaeologists began digging underneath. On Wednesday, the huge stone monument was put on display for reporters before its first public exhibition. The sculpture itself challenges the public perception of Aztec monuments as bare stone-colored carvings, because it preserves a half-dozen original colors in which it was originally painted, inc ... More


MEXICO CITY.- Recent interdisciplinary investigations regarding 31 marine fossils found at Palenque Archaeological Zone, in Chiapas, reveal that Maya people conceived their beliefs parting from this kind of vestiges, so their idea of the underworld was associated to water.

For Palenque inhabitants, marine fossils were the convincing proof of the land being covered by the sea long time ago, and parting from this fact they created their idea of the origin of the world, declared archaeologist Martha Cuevas, responsible, with geologist Jesus Alvarado, of research conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Ongoing for 3 years, the investigation is oriented to understand symbolism given by ancient Mayas to Prehistoric vestiges, specifically the 31 specimens found at the archaeological site.

The INAH researcher mentioned that petrified rests have been found mainly at funerary contexts, standing out the fossils of different marine animals, shark teeth and stingray spines deposited as part of funerary offerings.

“During investigation conducted at the North Group temples and the structure in front of them, slabs with marine fossils were used by Mayas as tombstones or offered to deities, which is important in the study of Maya cosmogony”.

Until now, 31 fossils from different periods have been discovered, being the earliest from the Paleocene, nearly 63 million years ago. “Vestiges were used in ritual contexts during the Late Classic period (600-850 AD), when they were found by Palenque people”.

This research “looks forward to know if it was through contact with fossils more than 1,200 years ago, that these elements were incorporated to their world view.

“We believe that parting from these probable chance discoveries they began forming the idea of the creation of the world that we know thanks to iconographic representations and hieroglyphic texts left behind, as well as myths that are part of oral tradition”, commented Martha Cuevas.

She added that “according to information from Colonial myths, for Palenque people these fossils were testimonies of land being covered by the sea in ancient times; when gods ordered water to retire, their city emerged and the actual era began.

“Mayas from Palenque had the notion that the Earth was different thousand years ago, and that the world was mutable, subject of transformation”.

Confirming this would mean that they inferred that marine fossils were important because they referred to the moment of the origin of humanity and were related to death; they believed that when people died they returned to their place of origin.

“The fact of have used fossils in funerary contexts is related with the conception they had about the underworld, as the aquatic destiny they reached after dying”, added up the INAH archaeologist.

Martha Cuevas also mentioned that research includes the study of iconographic representations and hieroglyphic texts found at the site, which, in a way, are related with the fossils.

An example of this is the 14th Tableaux. It represents a scene of the mythic trip to the underworld of the Maya ruler Kan Balam II to a remote epoch, 932,000 years back.

“According to the legend, when Kan Balam II died in 702 AD, his brother and successor K’an Joy Chitam II ordered the creation of this remarkable relief. We can see in the stele a dancing Kan Balam II and his mother, also deceased, Ts’ak Ahaw.

“The bottom of the relief shows 3 levels marked with glyphs that indicate the place where the characters are found; the expressions “nab”, body of water, and “hets’an Kák nab”, calmed sea, refer to the aspect of the world during that mythic age, when everything was water and gods had not ordered land to emerge”.

“Painted on vessels we have found representations of fish species, shark teeth and stingray spines similar to those found in fossils”, she concluded.




NEW HAVEN (AP).- Incan artifacts removed from Machu Picchu nearly a century ago and held by Yale University belong to the people of Peru, U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd said Wednesday. Peru has had a lawsuit pending in federal court in Connecticut since 2008 demanding Yale return artifacts taken by scholar Hiram Bingham III between 1911 and 1915. Yale says it returned dozens of boxes of artifacts in 1921 and that Peru knew it would retain some. Dodd, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on Latin America, traveled to the region last week and met with Peruvian President Alan Garcia and other government officials to discuss the dispute. The Connecticut Democrat, who is retiring, said he has worked for years with Yale and Peru to seek a resolution. "The Machu Picchu

MEXICO CITY.- The Ballgame was for ancient Mesoamerican peoples an allegory of the access to the underworld as well as a possibility to reborn, and it is present as part of the FIFA World Cup celebration in South Africa through the exhibition Worldview and Skills: Ballgame in Mesoamerica, an archaeological collection about this practice. The show was inaugurated in May 6th 2010 at the Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria, in Johannesburg, and will be open until June 10th 2010. South Africans and visitors will be able to admire Mexican archaeological heritage from different museums part of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). The Mexican Ambassador to South Africa, Luis Cabrera, and the Dean of the University of Pretoria, Professor Cheryl de la Rey, presided at the inauguration ceremony, attended by officers of the South African Government, members of the Mexican ... More

Research to Take Place at El Tajin Using LIDAR Technology
MEXICO CITY.- Altars, plazas and ballgame courts, among other Prehispanic structures that are still buried at El Tajin, Veracruz may be detected by using LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) devises. Archaeologist Patricia Castillo Peña, academic director of the site in custody of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) informed that mapping the archaeological zone is a project that will allow to have detailed register of ancient structures. She commented that the initiative is being revised by the INAH Archaeology Council. In case of being approved, an agreement between INAH and Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) will be set to determine the company with the LIDAR technology that may conduct the inspection, to be selected by PEMEX. The INAH researcher declared that extensive exploration took place in the northern and central regions of Veracruz as part of the PEMEX Gulf Tertiary Oil Project. Digital mapping of the a ... More

Archaeological Finding Confirms Ixcateopan Produced Cotton
MEXICO CITY.- Ixcateopan, in Guerrero, was one of the last settlements to be subjugated by Mexica Empire, becoming tributary in the late 15th and early 16th centuries; at this archaeological zone, specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered tools that confirm that people spun cotton, used to confection warrior garments in Tenochtitlan. During the most recent exploration season at the site located 36 kilometers away from Taxco, archaeologists found tools, mainly spindles, when excavating remains of rooms. Raul Barrera, in charge of the archaeological project, informed that this finding, combined with the name in Nahuatl that means “Cotton Temple”, confirms that Ixcateopan delivered important amounts of cotton thread to Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan seignories. “In some of these rooms was spun the cotton used to create the warrior garments. This information helps us ... More

Giant Maya Figureheads to be Restored
MEXICO CITY.- Six giant figureheads at Chakanbakan Archaeological Zone, Quintana Roo, considered the greatest and among the earliest in the area, will be restored by specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). Created more than 2,300 years ago, these sculptures remind the Olmeca style, which represented deities with jaguar faces, revealing the adoption by Maya of elements from earliest cultures. Intervention to figureheads made out of stucco, clay and stone is coordinated by Gerardo Calderon and conducted by specialists from the INAH National Coordination of Cultural Heritage Conservation (CNCPC). “A team of restorers will begin an integral cleaning in May 2010, followed by plastering and reintegration of small missing parts, as well as consolidation”, informed archaeologist Fernando Cortes, in charge of the archaeological zone. He added that during conservation work, restorers will take ... More

Burials Were Discovered at Tlatelolco
MEXICO CITY.- More than 130 burials, most likely from the 16th century, were found at the Great Base of Tlatelolco Archaeological Zone, in Mexico City, during the recent exploration season. The remains are being analyzed to determine their age. First traces of this unprecedented funerary complex were registered between 2008 and 2009. The group of skeletons was found placed parting from the center of the Prehispanic structure, from where 126 of 131 registered skeletons were recovered by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH); the rest were left in site for conservation reasons. Archaeologist Salvador Guilliem Arroyo, director of the archaeological project, commented that in order to determine temporality and ethnic affiliation of individuals, the phase of analysis continues, studying the skeletons, associated material (Prehispanic and Colonial ceramics, wood fragments, textile rests and meta ... More