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Zapoteca Ruling Marriage Portrait Restored
Character with femur, symbol of the ruling class from Lambityeco, Oaxaca. Photo: DMC, INAH/ H. MONTAĐO.

NEW YORK, NY.- One of the few samples of Prehispanic rulers’ portraits, located at the fašade of Tomb 6 in Lambityeco, Oaxaca, was restored by specialists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). They are the portraits of Lord 1 Earthquake and Lady 10 Reed, created more than 1,300 years ago.

Salts and humidity damaged the stucco depiction, famous for its realism, created near 700 AD, which represents the couple, advanced in years. The woman wears her hair in a braid attached to the head, as modern Zapoteca women still do.

Archaeologists and restorers of Valle de Oaxaca Archaeological Corridor (CAVO) Project, conducted by Monte Alban Archaeological Zone, restored stability of the exterior of the familiar crypt, discovered in late 1960’s decade by John Paddock. The finding was unique due to its’ architectural features, decorated with mosaics and stucco friezes.

According to archaeologist Berenice Villanueva Ruiz, part of CAVO team, during Late Classic (850 AD) and Post Classic (950-1200 AD) Periods, Lambityeco was an important salt producer and exporter; concentration of this element on stone has become a harmful factor.

At the Tomb 6 fašade, salt was being expelled towards the tableaux and figureheads. To control this situation, a well was dug atop to allow exit of humidity accumulated at the interior of the crypt.

Tasks conducted during 5 months included providing more support to stucco portraits of Lord 1 Earthquake and Lady 10 Reed: the relief was filled up with clay and caliche (hard pan) and lime was injected to provide resistance.

Berenice Villanueva commented that one of restoration work’s priorities is to use local material; walls of Northern Patio were covered with a mixture of clay, cactus juice and straw.

Archaeologist Guillermo Ramon Celis, responsible of Lambityeco research and conservation project, mentioned that Cocijo figureheads will be restored during 2010. They are stuccoed representations of the storm deity modeled with stone and mud, located at Cocijo Patio.

Lambityeco occupation began before foundation of Monte Alban, near 700 BC, and ended near 750 AD. The peak took place between 600 and 750 of the Common Era, when important changes happened due to Monte Alban weakening.

Several ceremonial centers flourished then, among them, Lambityeco. Sculptural representations are different to those found at Monte Alban because they document marriages ruling class marriages, an important political cohesion source in Post Classic period.

Rests of 6 high rank residences and 3 tombs associated to them were found between 1961 and 1975 by Paddock, at the bottom of Structure 195. Archaeologist Ramon Celis mentioned that according to Carbon 14 dating, the rooms were occupied for approximately 115 years.

“At the friezes found at the altar, in front of Tomb 6, other members of the familiar clan are mentioned. Here it is observed that the femur bone was a symbol of legitimate power change; scenes coincide with archaeological information because all skeletons found at the crypt lacked the right femur”.

The INAH archaeologist concluded saying that Lambityeco abandonment probably was related to an age of instability and war that forced inhabitants to leave the city and move to Yagul, a safer place located 5 kilometers away.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | Berenice Villanueva Ruiz | Valle de Oaxaca Archaeological Corridor | Guillermo Ramon Celis | Lambityeco |

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