Pre-Columbian News - May 2011

2 MEXICO CITY.-(artdaily.com) A stairway with Maya hieroglyphs was discovered at El Palmar Archaeological Zone, in southeast Campeche, by experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the University of Arizona (UA) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), revealing the preliminary decipherment that this Maya city maintained contact with Calakmul, in Campeche, and Copan, Honduras, almost 1300 years ago. Leaders of the project Javier Lopez Camacho, from the National School of Anthropology and History (ENAH) and Kenichiro Tsukamoto, from the University of Arizona (UA), announced that the 6-step stairway conserves 90 blocks with more than 130 glyphs that refer to events registered in the Classic Maya period (250-900 AD). They remarked that although it is not the only hieroglyphic stairway discovered in the Maya Lowlands, (20 have been reported until now), the one at El Palmar is associated to the periphery of the site and to structures of modest dimensions; generally these stairways are linked to monumental buildings at the central area of the sites.
Hieroglyph decipherment
Regarding the glyphic inscriptions, although it is a preliminary result, according epigraphist Octavio Esparza Olguin, from UNAM, the text refers to important events to understand history of the Maya Classic period (250-900 AD).
The hieroglyphic stairway of Guzman Group narrates the visit of foreign personages to El Palmar, maybe dignitaries; the creation of the steps carving is associated to a calendar wheel dated in Ajaw 18 Sak, equivalent to September 13th, 726 AD. Information about the lords of the site is included, as well as contacts maintained with cities like Copan and Calakmul. The visit of the lords of Copan and Calakmul to El Palmar might have happened a decade before both cities were defeated, respectively, by Tikal and Quirigua (Guatemala) between 736 and 738 AD.


ACAPULCO.- Four kilometers away from Zihuatanejo-Acapulco highway, at Costa Grande Region in Guerrero, is located the Xihuacan Site Museum, recently inaugurated. More than 800 archaeological pieces are exhibited, most of them of Teotihuacan style, found during several field seasons at Soledad de Maciel, Petatlan municipality. A vast universe of Prehispanic pieces, such as figurines, obsidian vases, works in shell, copper axes, bell necklaces, ceramics and lithic, integrates the collection that explains cultural development of the ancient city that had a strong interaction with Teotihuacan during the Classic period (200 to 650 AD).
Xihuacan Site Museum is located in the Soledad de Maciel Archaeological Zone, where for 4 years the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has been exploring and adapting different Prehispanic monuments with the aim of opening it to public visit in late 2011. Archaeologist Rodolfo Lobato, who coordinates exploration at the site, informed that among the ancient objects at the museum stands out a stone carved with the place name glyph of Xihuacan. “It is one meter high, 50 centimeters wide and 25 thick, and was found during the recent excavations at the ballgame court area”.
The glyph has a circular shape and reveals the name with which this site was known in the Prehispanic period. Xihuacan is a Nahuatl word that means “place of the turquoise holders”, a metaphor that refers to those who “possess the time” or “control the calendar”.  The Guerrero INAH Center archaeologist pointed out that the allegory is associated with the role of this settlement as the greatest ruling center of Costa Grande; it has been deduced that its urban draft was based on celestial movements.
The collection displayed at the site museum is integrated with pieces found recently as well as items discovered before, at the time when the first registers took place in charge of specialists like Pedro Hendrichs in 1943, Pedro Armillas in 1948 and Ellen Brush in 1968, as well as Ruben Manzanilla in the late 1980’s.
At the first dwellers of Soledad de Maciel hall, it is explained that this was a governing center at Costa Grande Region. “Its peak was during the Epi Classic period (650 to 959 AD), although it was inhabited since the Pre Classic (2500 BC to 200 AD). The context indicates that it had a gradual abandonment caused by floods that made inhabitants migrate to higher lands”.
It was during the Classic period that Teotihuacan culture influenced the city, this being observed in the social complexity and the power that Xihuacan achieved; it was at this stage that the great ceremonial conjunct was constructed.
Finally, archaeologist Rodolfo Lobato added that during the Epi Classic period (650 to 950 AD) the site reached its peak with expansionist purposes and held commercial control. Its great ceremonial center became a site of agricultural and religious rites and a seat of power.
INAH continues excavation and consolidation work at Soledad de Maciel Archaeological Zone, with the aim of opening it to public visit by the end of 2011.
Xihuacan Site Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 17:00 hours. As its inauguration is recent, it can be visited for free.