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Mexican archaeologists discover the burial of a high-ranking Zapotec individual
Inside the third grave, bones were found along with an offering. Photo: DMC.INAH. MAURICIO MARAT.

Translated by: Cristina Perez-Ayala

OAXACA.- The burial of a high ranked individual of the ancient zapotecan society, accompanied by an offering, was discovered by archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), on the third tomb of the Aztompa Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca.

After the three-month old finding of a hitherto unheard of funerary complex which is composed of three funerary chambers, investigators were finally able to enter the third prehispanic sepulcher where, among other objects, they found a red vase with a human face estimated to date back to between 650 – 850 d. C.

This mortuary chamber is different from the earlier two which had been emptied and cancelled since it still held the remains and its offerings in excellent state, informed Nelly Robles García, national coordinator of Archaeology at INAH.

This chamber is estimated to be the eldest in the funerary building. It was carefully filled with combined layers of rocks and earth, in the purpose of conserving its contents as best as possible.

Osseous remains of a high ranked individual of the ancient zapotecan society – possibly of the male sex – were found inside the third chamber. Small and plain bones such as vertebras, ribs and hand bones were found along with the sternum, the pelvis and the cranium.

The osseous material will be examined with physical anthropology studies with the purpose of determining pathologies, age, nutrition, state of health and whether it has intentional deformities for cultural purposes.

Along the said remains, archaeologists found a fragmented skull, which belonged to another individual, most likely placed as an offering, with a small black jar and parts of an earthenware pot.

Deep within the third chamber an anthropomorphic clay urn, whose character is ornamented with earflaps and a headdress, the latter of which was found to the side of the piece underneath a sandstone, said archaeologist Eduardo García. The piece belonged to the mortuary offerings of a male adult, he added.

The urn is more than 1,100 years old and about 50 cm (19.69 inches) tall. and about 30 cm (11.81 inches) in diameter. Adding the headdress, the urn measures up to approximately 70 cm (27.56 inches) tall. The character represented is assumed to be in a sitting position, although this will be confirmed as the excavation advances.

The red pigment with which it was painted is one of the more distinctive characteristics of the piece. The painting can be fairly appreciated by its degree of conservation. This pigment might have been obtained from cinnabar or from the hematit

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