Pre-Columbian - New Discoveries Winter 2013

Archaeologists find large sculpture of Huehuetéotl, God of Fire, atop the Pyramid of the Sun

MEXICO CITY.- Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH - Conaculta) found, at the peak of Pyramid of the Sun, the biggest Huehueteotl (Old God or God of Fire) sculpture in Teotihuacan, Estado de Mexico; they also found two complete green stone stelae and a fragment of another one, which must have decorated the temple that crowned this construction 1,500 years ago.

Archaeologist Alejandro Sarabia whom, together with his colleague, PhD Saburo Sagiyuma from the Provincial University of Aichi (Japan), has been developing since 2005 the Pyramid of the Sun Project, informed that the pieces where found inside a well that possibly dates back to the end of the V century or the beginning of the VI century of our era.

The temple, which existed at the peak of the pyramid, was destroyed by Teotihuacan’s people during this period, but some architectonic elements –much like the stelae– where left in place. Sarabia and his team consider that the well was excavated in pre Hispanic times in order to recover the main offering of the construction. This was an act that demystified the construction; also, ancient Teotihuacans spread the main offering in other public buildings of the ancient city.

Archaeologist Nelly Zoe Nuñez Rendon, another investigator of the Pyramid of the Sun Project, who is responsible for the excavations at the top of the construction, said that the excavations’ initial objective was to locate the last movement of the bodies.

This spectacular discovery, together with the 1906 finding of a brazier and various sculptural symbols from the sacred ceremony of New Fire above the semi platform, could indicate that the Pyramid of the Sun was a scenario for cults dedicated to fire and the end of calendar cycles.

All the stelea are smooth. The first one –2.56 meters [8.38 feet] long and 955 kilos [2105.41 pounds] (the biggest green stone monolith of the 20 that have been registered in Teotiuacan)–, was found 4.30 meters deep; the second one –1.40 meters [4.59 feet] long and 300 kilos [661.3 pounds]–, was discovered in the first week of last December, close to the end of the 2012 season of exploration.

Said season of archaeological exploration, carried out from June to December 2012, was performed in order to clear doubts about the construction system and the actual date of the great pyramid which measures 214.6 meters [704.06 feet], 215.2 meters [706.03 feet], 215.7 meters [707.67 feet] and 210.5 meters [690.61 feet] at the base in the north, east, south and west sides respectively.

It’s worth mentioning that between 2008 and 2010, using a 116 meters [380.57 feet] long tunnel –excavated between 1919 and 1931–, INAH investigators located, with strategic wells, three previous structures to the Pyramid of the Sun, and two rich material deposits, one of these being the consecration offering of the building that dates back to the end of the I century of the beginning of the II.

“In this space –detailed archaeologist Alejandro Sarabia– they registered over 200 thousand materials: shells, snail shells, slate (the biggest ones in Teotihuacan) and pyrite discs, eleven Tlaloc pots, a green stone mask, 40 gray obsidian objects (projectile tips, knives and anthropomorphic figurines), the osseous remains of a jaguar, a dog and an eagle. Basically, this was what a dedication offering was composed of.”

The 2012 season of the project was also focused on other spaces of the pyramid, such as its base, close to the northeastern corner, to define the place of contact between the construction plaza and the wall that surrounds the building. Also, they excavated two small stairs from the first body, the point of this being to find evidence of the original decoration, which they did, in the form of a sculpture, remains of a slope and its original board, all of which came from the V century of our era. " artdaily.org http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=60734
 
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TEPIC, NAYARIT.- "Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta) recently found a complex panel of petroglyphs that must have been carved between 850 and 1350 AD (some of which are over 1,000 years old), in a site called “Cantil de las animas” [Soul Ledge] near the town of Jesus Maria Cortes in Tepic, Nayarit.

The bas-relief symbolic representations, which are attributed to ancient groups of the Aztlan culture, were located in a practically new archaeological zone of the region –Nayarit’s mountainous zone of the southern high plateau–, and they cover a surface of about 4 meters (13.12 feet) long and 2 meters (6.56 feet) wide, which is facing south.

The symbolic content of the representations –detailed archaeologist Manuel Garduño Ambriz from INAH Center in Nayarit–, seems to divide the petroglyph panel composition in two parts.

“In the eastern half we found designs related to fertility-fecundity: rain clouds, sectioned snail shells, and feminine vulvae; in the western half, we found cranium profiles whose front point to the east, precisely towards the sunrise.”

The petroglyph iconography, said Mauricio Garduño, is linked to the pictorial tradition to the ancient groups of the Aztlan Culture, who, during 850 – 900 AD to 1350 AD, were settled primarily in the lower coastal regions of the north of Nayarit and south of Sinaloa, being this their nuclear zone.

Archaeologist Mauricio Garduño also pointed out that within the group of petroglyphs of “Cantil de las animas” it’s also possible to recognize two distinct pictorial styles of Aztlan’s iconography, the one with realistic or figurative representations of curved design, and schematic designs, that are distinguished by their rigid angular lines.

Another important aspect that must be investigated (in regard to the petroglyphs), is to determine if it was also used as an astronomical indicator since the vertical level in which these designs are oriented is over an east-west axis.

“Eventually, it will be necessary to make archeological and astronomical observations to determine the precise date at which the sun passes through this place, and to determine the function of this site in the annual ritual cycle and in the cultural interaction sphere of Aztlan, between the communities in the mountain range and the high plateau”.

Mauricio Garduño believes that the archaeological investigations in Nayarit should be studied more thoroughly to determine if the the symbolic regionalization of space has a link to patterns of settlement. However, we must recognize the contributions of ethnologists, who, since the XIX century, have been studying the indigenous communities in the cultural region called Gran Nayar.

The petroglyph panel discovered in “Cantil de las animas” is also relevant because it is located in an almost unknown area to the region’s archaeology.

Investigator Mauricio Garduño added that since the archaeological rescue works that took place in the 90’s, in the basin of the Santiago and Huaynamota rivers, there hadn’t been any systematic exploration labors in valleys and hill lands nearby.

Othon Yaroslav Quiroga, delegate of INAH in Nayarit announced that it will be necessary to implement a program to (archaeologically speaking) recognize, register and investigate the high plateau valleys. The objective will be to design concrete strategies in favor of protecting the archaeological patrimony of the region.

In the next few months they will officially register “Cantil de las animas” in the Directory of Public Registry of Monuments and Archaeological Zones of INAH. They will also proceed to detail all the designs, which will allow the integral interpretation of these. " artdaily.org
 
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 Recently while I was researching the large Amazon Basin Marajo olla in the Barbier Mueller collection in Paris, I found this article which I thought might be of interest. JB

Pre-Columbian Societies in Amazon May Have Been Much Larger and More Advanced Than Thought

Oct. 25, 2010 — "The pre-Columbian Indian societies that once lived in the Amazon rainforests may have been much larger and more advanced than researchers previously realized. Together with Brazilian colleagues, archaeologists from the University of Gothenburg have found the remains of approximately 90 settlements in an area South of the city of Santarém, in the Brazilian part of the Amazon.

 
"The most surprising thing is that many of these settlements are a long way from rivers, and are located in rainforest areas that extremely sparsely populated today," says Per Stenborg from the Department of Historical Studies, who led the Swedish part of the archaeological investigations in the area over the summer.
Traditionally archaeologists have thought that these inland areas were sparsely populated also before the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th and 17th centuries. One reason for this assumption is that the soils found in the inland generally is quite infertile; another reason is that access to water is poor during dry periods as these areas are situated at long distances from the major watercourses. It has therefore been something of a mystery that the earliest historical account; from Spaniard Francisco de Orellana's journey along the River Amazon in 1541-42, depicted the Amazon as a densely populated region with what the Spanish described as "towns," situated not only along the river itself, but also in the inland.
New Discoveries Could Change Previous Ideas
The current archaeological project in the Santarém area could well change our ideas about the pre-Columbian Amazon. The archaeologists have come across areas of very fertile soil scattered around the otherwise infertile land. These soils, known as "Terra Preta do Indio," or "Amazonian Dark Earth," are not natural, but have been created by humans (that is, they are "anthrosols").
"Just as importantly, we found round depressions in the landscape, some as big as a hundred metres in diameter, by several of the larger settlements," says Stenborg. "These could be the remains of water reservoirs, built to secure water supply during dry periods."
It is therefore possible that the information from de Orellana's journey will be backed up by new archaeological findings, and that the Amerindian populations in this part of the Amazon had developed techniques to overcome the environmental limitations of the Amazonian inlands.
Archaeological Rescue Efforts Are Urgent
The archaeological sites in the Santarém area are rich in artefacts, particularly ceramics. A large and generally unstudied collection of material from the area is held by the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg. Collected in the 1920s by the Germano-Brazilian researcher Curt Unkel Nimuendajú, the material ended up in the Museum of Ethnography in Gothenburg and is essential for increasing our knowledge of the pre-Columbian Amazon. Brazilian researchers are therefore interested in joint projects, where new field studies are combined with research into the contents of the Museum of World Culture's collections from the same area.
"The Santarém area is presently experiencing intensive exploitation of various forms, including expansion of mechanized agriculture and road construction," says Dr. Denise Schaan at Universidade Federal do Pará. "This means that the area's ancient remains are being rapidly destroyed and archaeological rescue efforts are therefore extremely urgent."
"Our work here is a race against time in order to obtain archaeological field data enabling us to save information about the pre-Columbian societies that once existed in this area, before the archaeological record has been irretrievably lost as a result of the present development," states Brazilian archaeologist Márcio Amaral-Lima at Fundação de Amparo e Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa, in Santarém.
The archaeological investigation forms part of a wider project led by the University of Gothenburg's Per Stenborg, PhD. The project is being carried out in collaboration with Brazilian archaeologists Denise Schaan (Universidade Federal do Pará) and Marcio Amaral-Lima (Fundação de Amparo e Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa, Laboratório de Arqueologia Curt Nimuendaju, Santarém), and is funded by grants from the Stiftelsen för Humanistisk Forskning, the Royal Swedish Society of Sciences and Letters in Gothenburg, Rådman och Fru Ernst Collianders Stiftelse, Stiftelsen Otto och Charlotte Mannheimers fond, and the universities in Pará and Gothenburg."