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Archaeologial find debunks "Maya collapse" theory, Dzibanché inhabited until 13th century
Dzibanche is a city that is located south of Quintana Roo, in the municipality of Othon P. Blanco, settled 40 square kilometers within the jungle. Photo: DMC INAH. M. MARAT.

Translated by: Cristina Perez Ayala

MEXICO CITY.- A stucco mural embossed with polychrome and several stucco fragments which belong to one of the most ancient and important Mayan dynasties of the old city of Dzibanche, Quintana Roo, were part of the latest discoveries registered in the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta). They reveal that said place was inhabited until the XIII century, two centuries after the “Mayan Collapse” which was believed to be the moment when the metropolis in the Lowlands became completely abandoned.

The findings came to light a few months ago, after specialists resumed archaeologist Enrique Nalda’s' (1936 – 2010) investigations on a Mayan metropolis. He found, during his last explorations, human remains and several objects used for offerings.

Dzibanche is a city that is located south of Quintana Roo, in the municipality of Othon P. Blanco, settled 40 square kilometers within the jungle. The settlement had its peak in the Classic period (250 – 1000 AD), during which the Kaan dynasty, one of the oldest and most important of the Mayan area, goberned.

Archaeologist Sandra Balanzario, responsible of the investigation project in Dzibanche, reported the discoveries as indicators to the city being inhabited until the Late Postclassic period (1200 – 1550 AD), “which is relevant because our previous investigations pointed to a settlement ending by the Late Classic (800 – 1000 AD).”

Between the objects found, a "killed" (intentionally broken) pot of the Late Classic stands out. The pot, having been broken during a ritual of the pre Hispanic epoch, was deposited as an offering. It is decorated with iconography depicting one of the “Testigo Cielo” brothers, one of the most important rulers of the Kaan dynasty.

This pot – that has been rearmed at about 70 percent – along with the iconography of the two murals, the stucco decoration and the glyphs associated to the Kaan dynasty, indicate a continuity of said lineage in that Mayan metropolis. “This is relevant because the prior information we had was that the Kaan dynasty settled in Dzibanchein the Classic period, and that by the Late Classic period (600 – 800 AD) they immigrated to Calakmulk. However, after this discovery, we know there was continuity for a part of the Kaan family stayed in Dzibanche to control the city”.

Within another architectonic unit where Enrique Nalda searched for residential evidence, the Pom Plaza, the archaeologist corroborated this area was indeed used for housing and was occupied by the elite in the Classic period. It is characterized by the rooms’ internal sidewalks.

Because of the proximity of this monumental area to Dzibanche, archaeologists believe this might have been the residence of the Kaan family. Close to this area, in the Cormoranes Temple, Nalda’s team discovered another stucco mural embossed with polychrome elaborated in the Classic period. Its iconography represents the sacred mountain, in which the origin of the Kaan family is described and which in turn legitimates said dynasty, Balanzario noted.



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