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Mexican archaeologists discover three 1,000 year old tombs near Monte Albán in Oaxaca
The walls of the chamber are decorated with designs related to the ball game. Photo: DMC INAH/H. Montaño.

Translated by: Cristina Pérez-Ayala

ATZOMPA, OAXACA.- A funerary complex more than 1,100 years old and composed of three funerary chambers was discovered in the prehistoric site of Aztompa, Oaxaca. This discovery is highly important since it was registered inside a building that was designed exclusively to harbor a series of tombs which are placed vertically, one on top of another, and the main difference between the prior and the recently discovered tombs is that they weren’t found underground.

According to specialists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta) who registered the discovery, this distinct construction model had not been identified within the region. This is also relevant since one of the mortuary chambers is decorated with mural paintings alluding to the ball game ritual, something that was rather unseen in a funerary zapotecan context.

According to archaeologists, Atzompa had been a small satellite city of Monte Albán, founded during the Late Classic period (650 – 900 d.C.) as a consequence of the expansion of the large city.

However, “this discovery changes the previous perception, Atzompa was not so similar to Monte Albán as it had been thought, instead it developed its own constructive methods, as was the case of the tombs and the palaces”, said Nelly Robles García, national coordinator of archaeology at INAH, also announcing that Aztompa would be soon open to the public.

Dr. Robles García believes these sepulchers could have belonged to important characters, since this building is adjacent to the House of Altars, this must have been the resting place of the elite.

It was only at the end of last April, during the Archaeological Proyect of Aztompa’s Collection of Historic Buildings, when archaeologists Eduardo García and Jaime Vera discovered the three tombs inside the 6th building of the oaxacan archaeological site, whose investigation –developed in 2007– was focused on deepening the knowledge about cultural and urban development in Monte Albán and Atzompa.

Dr. Nelly Robles, director of the project, emphasized the “highly relevant importance of the find, because in all we know about Monte Albán and Oaxaca there had never been a similar case that concerned a building created to contain mortuary chambers, due to the characteristics of the murals and structural aspects that allow the support of these chambers.”

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