jueves, 2 de enero de 2014

Aztec offerings and skull rack victims found in Mexico City (México)

As Mexico City extended it’s Metro system a further 25km, archaeologists were working in advance between October 2008 -August 2012. Among the burials, dwellings, statues and other exciting finds, something unique has come to light and captured the imagination of archaeologists and the public alike.
Unique ‘tzompantli‘ – skull rack
Four skulls oriented to the southwest, two male, one female and one canine, clearly formed part of a tzompantli (skull rack). This was a highlight of an investigation that yielded pre-Hispanic settlements including dwellings, stone slabs, sculptures, ceramics and an abundance of lithic material, as well as a hundred burials, mostly infants.
After some research was carried out the archaeologists  agreed the discovery of the skulls were part of a tzompantli dated to the Late Post Classic period (1350-1521 AD), where the remains of an incense burner was also found.
Uniquely, one of the skulls belonged to a canine, something which has never been found before in association with this type of altar. Dogs are often associated with funeral rites as they were used to accompany the dead on their way to the underworld.
Archaeologist María de Jesús Sánchez explained “We know that during the Conquest skulls of horses were placed in these structures, but not dogs”, referring to an account documented by the Spanish conquistadores who found the remains of captured soldiers as well as their horses displayed on a skull rack.  She concluded that,”we lack information, and perhaps dogs are associated with these tzompantlis shrines elsewhere and we have not yet found them. Currently there are only two known tzompantlis found in Mexico City, at Tlatelolco and the Templo Mayor. ”
Impaled on a wooden rod
Another of the skulls belonged to a woman aged between 18 and 22, who had cranial deformation and the two male skulls are aged between 25 and 35 years and the other around 35.
The skulls all have a hole through the temple, indicating they may have been impaled on a wooden rod which was placed on the tzompantli. However, at some point they have been removed  and remained only as an offering in that area.
The female skull is also significant, as tzompantlis were mainly used to display heads as trophies of war, and would normally have been made up of the severed heads of captives. The signs of cranial deformation indicate she was from an elite family, so her inclusion on a tzompantli is puzzling.
Other finds
The archaeologists also revealed evidence of prehispanic settlements as well as two sculpture and a abundance of type II and III Aztec ceramics. At one site they found over 63 burials including infants.
At the entrance to the Estrella Lomas station the skeletons of two adult individuals were found, one flexed (in a fetal position) the other individual was in a seated flexed position and was surrounded by offerings that included a basalt grinder, three bone flutes, two tripod bowls, and two Azteca type III bowls; both these burials are dated to circa 1500 CE. According to the physical anthropology analysis of the skeletons their teeth bear traces of a greenish blue pigment and there is also signs of cranial  deformation (see image of seated skeleton above).

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