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Recently found effigy pot could indicate individual buried in funerary complex in Oaxaca
Once the piece is restored, it could reach an 80 centimeter height [31.49 inches], considering that the pot –with the personage’s shape– is 28 centimeters [11.02 inches] in diameter and 45 centimeters [17.71 inches] high, dimensions to which we must add those of the headdress. Photo: DMC INAH. H. MONTANO.

MEXICO CITY.- The exceptional effigy pot, found a couple of months ago inside a funerary temple in the Aztompa Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca, has been released in its entirety by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta). Its rich iconography could indicate to one of the personages buried in Chamber 3 of the funerary complex who is deciphered as “8 Tremor”.

This ceramic piece (which represents a human) is about 1200 years old. Apart from conserving its colors intact (red, ochre and a grayish green), throughout its body it has a series of attributes that could belong to a high ranking individual who belonged to the old metropolis of Aztompa. Aztompa is located on Cerro del Bonete and it was one of the nucleus of the metropolis of Monte Alban.

According to the description made by archaeologist Eduardo Garcia Wigueras, who is responsible for the exploration work in the funerary building, the effigy pot stands out because of the represented personage’s elaborate clothing composed of a feather cloak, a tassel necklace, earflaps and a sash.

The investigator at the INAH-Oaxaca Center recalled that inside Chamber 3 of the mortuary temple (built around 750 and 900 AD), they also found a smaller red pot with a goddess’s representation and the skeletons of two individuals, one of which is probably the one represented in the polychromatic urn.

“One of the skeletons belongs to a teenager, possibly a woman. The other skeleton is that of an adult male, his remains are characterized by the cranium deformation. In general, the burial was covered in a red pigment, same as the pot, which is why it’s possible that this individual is the personage represented in the ceramic piece known as ‘8 Tremor’”, he specified.

Another element of the effigy pot that stands out is its headdress (34 centimeters [13.38 inches] tall). The headdress represents a reptile, surrounded by feathers, with its jaws open wide. To various pre Hispanic cultures, amongst them the Zapotecans, this kind of feathered snake or earth monster, was a powerful mythical animal that contributed in the celestial sphere and the earthly one, which is why it could be linked to personages with a high political status.

Once the piece is restored, it could reach an 80 centimeter height [31.49 inches], considering that the pot –with the personage’s shape– is 28 centimeters [11.02 inches] in diameter and 45 centimeters [17.71 inches] high, dimensions to which we must add those of the headdress.

Currently INAH has made various analysis to know more about the mortuary context where the piece was found, amongst them carbon 14 and collagen tests (obtained from the skeletons), to try and determine the precise date of the construction of the tombs and the burials. The effigy vases were tested by a different method to determine the pigment’s origins.

The tombs in Aztompa (inside a 20 meters [65.61 feet] wide and 6 meter [19.68 feet] long building) have been an important archaeological finding since they represent a different kind of funerary system in comparison to the ones that were known to the Monte Alban and Valle de Oaxaca zones.

Two of the three funerary chambers –which were constructed vertically and are communicated by a small nine step stair– are decorated with exquisite mural paintings, from which geometrical figures (possible allusions to the ball game) and the color red (related to the underworld) stand out.

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January 3, 2013

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