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Archaeologists Discover Two More Human Skeletons Accompanied by a Rich Offering
Offering made with the shell of a turtle representing an Olmec-style person. Photo: H. Montano/INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- After discovering a 2,700 year old tomb, probably the earliest in Mesoamerica, the team of specialists of the Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Project discovered another multiple burial that probably dates from 500 BC, which was accompanied by an offering where a necklace with an Olmeca-style pendant stands out.

Also found at Mound 11 of Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Zone, this second discovery consists in 2 osseous remains of male adults, located in a corner of the excavation area of the hill. Due to the hard-to-reach place where they were found, and the poor conservation state the remains present, the burial was explored partially.

The Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Project is conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), the Brigham Young University (BYU), and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) through its Center for Maya Studies at the Institute of Philological Investigations.

The project is co-directed by Bruce R. Bachand, Ph.D. from BYU and Emiliano Gallaga, Ph.D., part of INAH. Lynneth Lowe Ph.D. is part of the UNAM Center for Maya Studies.

Archaeologist Lowe, in charge of excavations at the hill of Mound 11, announced the second finding a few months ago, when the last field season at the Mixe-Zoque site concluded.

“We explored the west border of the tomb, which had a roof constructed with andirons and wood panels which gave away to the weight of soil, causing the skeletons to fragment in tiny pieces, from which skulls and some vertebrae were rescued. The personages, buried near 500 BC, might have been companions of a higher rank character.

“This is a very rich burial. At the explored part were found offerings that have symbolic relation with the underworld, containing 5 vessels, shells, snails, remains of animals, such as the skull of a crocodile; a brocade attire with dozens of canine fangs and the shell of a turtle attached; a jade beads necklace, and fragments of 2 bone masks”.

Bruce Bachand and Lynneth Lowe mentioned that among the offerings covered with dense black soil were found 2 pendants that were part of necklaces. One of them stands out because it presents the profile of a personage with Olmeca features.

Created on a turtle shell, this pendant is unique, since fragments of similar pieces have been found, but it is the only one complete to present. The other pendant is made out of an iron mineral, it represents a deer but it is not complete.

The general characteristics of the multiple burial and its offering, as pointed out by the experts, confirms the early use of the Mound 11 of Chiapa de Corzo as a funerary space, destined to high rank personages, as well as the connection between this settlement and the Olmeca nuclear area at the Gulf Coast, mainly La Venta.

“Mound 11 was a pyramid that must have been 6 or 7 meters high and represented the main construction in the first stages of the site, because dignitaries were buried there. In later stages, near 100 of the Common Era, entombments of members of the hierarchy took place in smaller buildings”, pointed out the archaeologists.

At present, works of the Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Project are focused on the registration of material (such as animal remains, mollusks, pearls and ornaments) found in the field season, in order to determine their origin.

According to the nature of the pieces found in the offerings, “apparently Chiapa de Corzo had relations with the Gulf Area, the Pacific Coast, the valley of Motagua, in Guatemala, and the Central Valleys of Oaxaca”.

Radiocarbon and DNA studies must be conducted to establish more accurately the temporality and possible relations between both elite entombments found until now in Mound 11.

Regarding analyses applied to the bone remains on the 4 individuals discovered in May 2010 by physical anthropologist Andres del Angel, from the UNAM Institute of Anthropological Investigations, the preliminary report confirms their sex and age.

The study also includes dental analyses, since 2 of the individuals present jade or shell incrustations, and represent the earliest samples of this practice in the region.

National Institute of Anthropology and History | Emiliano Gallaga | Bruce R. Bachand | The Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Project |

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