Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Field Museum archaeologists discover tomb under Zapotec residential complex in Oaxaca, Mexico

20.08.2003


On a high hilltop terrace in Oaxaca, Mexico, a team of Field Museum archaeologists discovered a 1,500-year-old underground tomb while excavating a palace-like residence. Although it was near the end of their excavation season, they dared not leave the tomb unexplored. News of this find at El Palmillo was sure to get around, and looting would follow. As it was, workers had to guard the tomb every night until the tomb was excavated.


The 1,500-year-old subfloor Zapotec tomb before its huge door was removed.
Photo by Linda Nicholas; Courtesty of The Field Museum


Photo by Linda Nicholas; Courtesty of The Field Museum



Images of the stone-lined interior – snapped with a digital camera and flash through an exposure created long ago when the door of the tomb shifted – helped plan the excavation and showed that the tomb remained in good shape.

"These first images were instrumental in helping us plan the tomb excavations even before we were able to enter the tomb," said Linda Nicholas, adjunct curator of anthropology at The Field Museum. Before entering the tomb, the team carefully removed earth and rock rubble on the stone steps leading down to the door, a huge stone that required seven workers to move.


Their efforts were well rewarded. The subfloor tomb turned out to be one of the most elaborately constructed subterranean masonry tombs found outside the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Albán. And it had never been looted.

The Zapotec was one of the most important cultures (in what is now Mexico) at the time of the Maya. "The importance of this tomb is that it tells us that even at a site on the fringe of the Oaxaca Valley, the Zapotecs followed burial customs that were similar to those followed in Monte Albán, the regional capital," said Gary Feinman, PhD, chair and curator of Anthropology at The Field Museum. "It also tells us that there was more status differentiation at the top of El Palmillo than lower down the hill." A brief report of the tomb’s discovery will be published in the September/October issue of Archaeology Magazine.

Human remains

The remains of three persons were found in the tomb, although there are hints that earlier tomb contents may have been removed by terrace residents and re-interred elsewhere before the tomb was sealed. One person was interred in a seated position and wore a single green stone bead, both signs that the occupants of this complex were privileged and that those interred in the tomb had high status. Some of the bones found in a wall niche were covered with red paint.

The tomb included three wall niches, each filled with ceramic vessels. Twenty-five ceramic vessels dating to the latter part of the Classic period (c. AD 500-700) were found. Remnants of another 11 vessels, along with six loose teeth fit with stone drill plugs and having other dental modifications, were discovered in front of the door or on the steps leading down to the tomb.

Interestingly, the tomb was not used during the entire occupation of the residential complex. The entrance was sealed over by a thick plastered patio floor and the tomb remained out of use during a series of subsequent re-buildings. It appears that before 1000 AD, the residential complex on the terrace was abandoned, as most of El Palmillo’s thousands of residents left this hilltop location. When in use, the tomb was reached by the stone stairway that led down from the central patio of this residential complex. Over subsequent centuries, burials continued to occur in the sediments above and in the vicinity of this residential tomb.

Archaeologists Feinman and Nicholas have been excavating at El Palmillo every summer since 1999. In prior seasons, they excavated tombs on other terraces in which much sediment had seeped in, making the excavation of dirt from the tomb contents an exceedingly slow process. This tomb, however, was free of debris and relatively undamaged.

"The tomb was well constructed, which kept soil and rubble out, but not water," Dr. Feinman said. "The wet and dry cycles decomposed the bodies and some of the bones."

Track expeditions online

The Oaxaca dig was featured on expeditions@fieldmuseumTM, a free interactive online program through which Field Museum scientists share their discoveries and describe their experiences in the field. In addition to email dispatches, a companion Web site features expedition photographs, video reports, interactive site maps, and research details. To access all the images and reports from the Oaxaca dig, visit http://www.fieldmuseum.org/expeditions/gary2_expeditions/about.html.

This fall, the field adventures continue. In September, expeditions@fieldmuseum will host a follow-up Q&A session with paleontologist Lance Grande, PhD, the leader of this summer’s fossil-collecting expedition to southwestern Wyoming. In October, expeditions@fieldmuseum will go behind the scenes with mammal collection manager Bill Stanley as he demonstrates what happens to the wide variety of specimens that arrive at the Museum each month. In November, it will descend to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean with zoologist Janet Voight, PhD, as she explores hot, toxic seafloor habitats.

Greg Borzo | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.fieldmuseum.org/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht "Flight recorder" of rocks within the Earth’s crust
16.04.2019 | Universität Bern

nachricht More than 90% of glacier volume in the Alps could be lost by 2100
09.04.2019 | European Geosciences Union

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Quantum gas turns supersolid

Researchers led by Francesca Ferlaino from the University of Innsbruck and the Austrian Academy of Sciences report in Physical Review X on the observation of supersolid behavior in dipolar quantum gases of erbium and dysprosium. In the dysprosium gas these properties are unprecedentedly long-lived. This sets the stage for future investigations into the nature of this exotic phase of matter.

Supersolidity is a paradoxical state where the matter is both crystallized and superfluid. Predicted 50 years ago, such a counter-intuitive phase, featuring...

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>