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Mexican archaeologists find another 1,200 year-old grave at Atzompa in Oaxaca
In the sepulcher, which was found intact, they found the skeletons of two adults. Photo: LAURA MENDOZA/ INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- A pre Hispanic sepulcher of around 1200 years old, which must have belonged to a middle class Zapotecan family that worked to sustain the elite, was discovered in the Archaeological Zone of Atzompa, Oaxaca.

The finding of this pre Hispanic site, opened recently for the public, was registered during the archaeological work by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH – Conaculta), to safeguard the remains of an old housing site, which was estimated to be inhabited around 750 and 900 AD.

This is the fourth tomb that has been found near the metropolis in Monte Alban after the discovery of a funerary complex composed of three sepulchers inside a building occupied by the elite of Atzompa earlier this year.

For INAH specialists, the finding of this domestic space and its tomb are relevant to understand that the central complex in the old metropolis of Atzompa wasn’t only made up of a civic and ceremonial area, but it also contained a housing area.

Archaeologist Laura Mendoza Escobar, who was in charge of the salvaging works, informed that the tomb was found under the main room of the house. In the sepulcher, which was found intact, they found the skeletons of two adults. The context indicates one of the individuals died first and his remains were removed to the bottom of the crypt in order to deposit the body of a second character. This is the reason of the skeleton being placed upside down.

The specialist of the INAH Center Oaxaca explained that this finding presents the characteristics of old Zapotecan funerals which, in the case of sepulchers, were characterized by burying the individuals under the main room of their houses because this was the most important space in their household.

Mendoza Escobar said that one of the buried individuals had been honored since four effigy pots were placed in the threshold of the tomb.

Two of these effigy pots represent the God Cocijo, Zapotecan deity of rain. He is recognized because his nose and mouth shaped like a reptile’s and by the glyph C, which is related to corn.

Another of the two remaining effigy pots –added Laura Mendoza– alludes to a feminine deity represented in a seating position with her hands spread over her lap and a beaded necklace. The last pot (with an unidentified deity) shows the complete iconography; it contains the bust of a character with a prominent nose and a headdress full of cob, also his chest presents a small face flanked by two circles.

An artisan family
The archaeologist Laura Mendoza Escobar added that in the exterior part of the household, in the central patio, they discovered the body of a third individual, but it had no tomb. This is the skeleton of an adult individual who was placed on the ground and was covered with sandstone.

It probably belonged to a woman, she said [archaeologist Mendoza Escobar], who was related to the family of the two characters discovered inside the tomb, whom we believe to be artisans (this is deducted by the presence of three polishers).

Also, investigator Mendoza Escobar of INAH added that in the same patio they discovered a great concentration of ceramic fragments belonging to, at least, two pots of gray engobe [a thin layer of fluid clay applied to a piece of earthenware to support a glaze or enamel or to cover blemishes] of almost a meter high [3.28 feet] and a small urn, as well as other stone elated materials. This offering suggests there was an intentional abandonment of the place by its inhabitants.

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December 21, 2012

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