PREP team 2022 Field Season: week 1

Three years after the pandemic froze all travel, we were finally able to return to Palenque to continue our investigations of residential groups. But we returned to a very different Palenque. The site is swarming with construction workers sent to the site to upgrade some of its facilities ahead of the national Maya Train project. The site’s only public bathroom has already been demolished and will be cleared for the construction of a new bathroom. There are some archaeologists overseeing the work as it will impact the archaeology there, particularly the possible lithic workshop. The next major overhaul will take place in the camp. The research house and lab facilities are scheduled to be demolished as well, to be rebuilt and it’s infrastructure upgraded.

The bathroom gets a major upgrade before the arrival of the Maya Train (Photo: Johnson 2022)

There are some tourists but the level of visitation is very low compared to prior years. Due to the pandemic, no climbing of the structures is allowed. They are trying to discourage crowding in the rooms of the Palenque structures. The other major change underway is the construction of a large complex of buildings a bit further down the road meant to serve as the entrance to the park and the place where vendors and the ticket booth will be located.

While this activity is going on in the central core of the site, our team has been working hard to initiate excavations in residential groups immediately surrounding this area. Rodrigo has a small team to continue working in Group IV, where they have already cleared away the east side of the mausoleum structure J6, revealing the inset corners that mirror the west side of the structure. There also appears to be a low platform that abuts the structure on the east side where there may be more burials as part of the cemetery in the plaza.

Eastern side of Group IV’s structure J6 with inset corners identical to the structures of nearby Group C (photo: Johnson 2022)

To the west of Group IV (and across the road), Arianna and Lisa have opened up excavations in two residential groups on the outer edges of our proposed “neighborhood.” The structures back up to the Motiepa and would have had convenient access to water. Consequently, for our team, it makes for a beautiful setting to work in! Already, it is clear that these residential groups are not the homes of Palenque commoners. In just one week, Lisa and her team have defined the perimeters of a large stone structure and a large concentration of figurines, decorated pottery, large obsidian blades, fragments of an alabaster box lid and what appears to be mirror back fragments.

While Lisa and her team clear the large, complex structure of JO33, Arianna and her team are working in the group immediately south of it and they are also finding figurines, the most recent, including an elegant bat figurine and a god head.

Mo and Jordan discuss structure JO33 as the humus is removed, revealing hints of intact walls (Photo: Johnson 2022)
Waterfalls located immediately west of the excavations (Photo: Johnson 2022)
A figurine found outside of Structure JO33 (photo: Johnson 2022)

Already, we are seeing whole obsidian blades with very little use, and hachas, of chert and limestone. We will continue to look for the suite of materials suggesting the kinds of activities that were occurring in this household group.

Esteban (Pelon) examines a figurine found outside of Structure JO33 (Photo: Johnson 2022)

Next week, we will continue to define the architecture of structure JO33, and look for occupational surfaces to sample for micromorphology, paleoethnobotany and soil chemistry. Let’s just hope the weather holds out.

Rosemary Joyce receives an honorary doctorate from Leiden University

February 8, 2022

The Mayalab team is thrilled to announce that our own Rosemary Joyce has received an honorary doctorate degree from Leiden University today! This incredible honor is well deserved and is a recognition of Professor Joyce’s numerous contributions to the field of anthropology and archaeology!

Rosemary Joyce receives an honorary doctorate degree virtually

Documenting our excavations in 3D

Since several years we have been using photogrammetry to integrate the documentation of our excavations. Beside drawing and sketching our excavation layers, this technique allows us to register the process in 3D.

Here you can see the beginning of Operation 471, after removing the humus, we had this collapse of a platform building, with no walls exposed.

Prior to the removal of the collapse, also the side of building J37 appeared “messy”. But the intact walls were just underneath the fallen stone blocks. Here you can appreciate how it looks like in Operation 472A!

We are also investigating the front of J37 building, to understand if this mound was actually enclosing a single building or several constructions..In fact, it often happens that the collapse of several contiguous constructions generate a one big mound. Few of the findings of trench 472B have been described in our last post.

While Operations 472A, 472 B and 471 are located in the architectural compound south-east of Group IV, other buildings are being excavated north-east of Group IV (see our recent post).

Operation 473 is exploring a building close to the Takin Ha stream, which runs within our neighborhood. Even with the blue and red colors generated by the tarps we put to create shade on the excavation, it is possible to appreciate the steps leading to the room of the building, as well as the back wall.

Of notice, a flipped metate was placed at the foot of the building (in the blue shaded side of the model)! We found another flipped metate at the base of the pyramid just next to this building, where Dee and Mo started excavating.

Week 2 of the 2023 Field Season

It was a busy week in excavations! Following days of removing humus and collapse, the architecture began to emerge! We are focusing on two different structural groups. As mapped, it was clear they were different in terms of structure size, form and orientation. Mo and Dee have been working in one group, excavating a pyramidal shape structure and a long, linear structure that abuts it. This small group appears to have been surrounded by water, making it a rather interesting group. Large concentrations of manos, metates and ceramics were found in the patio area surrounding the structures.

Mo and Dee begin excavating the pyramid and within days, walls emerge (photo: L. Johnson)

Next to the pyramid, Sergio and Pablo have quickly found intact walls, an inner room and a solid basal platform of a long, linear structure. Arianna and Lisa have been diligently documenting the architecture with photoplans and 3D scans.

Arianna takes a series of photos for a 3D rendering of Structure J17, and Dee and Mo go old school, drawing the architecture with pencils and graph paper (photo: L. Johnson)

In the other group of structures, the rest of the team have been hard at work excavating structures J33 and J37. Like other residential groups, we have been finding a diverse suite of materials including ceramics, figurines, manos and metates. Interestingly, we are also finding a number of exhausted blade cores and obsidian core shaping debitage.

Ian excavates Structure J37, revealing a nice set of stairs and JP finds obsidian cores at the base of the structure (photo: L. Johnson)

Next week will be another busy week!

Primeros trabajos de la temporada 2023!

Después de un largo viaje y de haber quedado atrapados en el AICM por la ceniza del Popo, el equipo del MayaLab ha logrado reunirse en Palenque para empezar la temporada 2023!

Mientras que algunos terminan las últimas compras, los otros visitan el sitio de Palenque guiados por la inarrestable MO!

Este año tenemos un equipo interdisciplinario con muchas ganas de trabajar!

También en esta temporada vamos a explorar la vecindad de Palenque cuyo centro es el Grupo IV, en donde se están realizando trabajos de excavación y consolidación.

El año pasado habíamos identificado dos conjuntos arquitectónicos dónde excavar, al este del Grupo IV. Estos se escogieron de acuerdo a una elección aleatoria basada en la forma de los edificios.

Así el equipo se dividió en dos grupos, y con la ayuda de Sergio, Pablo, Christian, Víctor y Víctor Manuel iniciamos con trazar el perímetro de las excavaciones.

En los primeros niveles ya empezamos a encontrar material como cerámica y figurillas. En general, estos hallazgos nos dan una mejor idea sobre la temporalidad de los edificios, pero también nos hablan de los usos y costrumbres de los antiguos palencanos, como por ejemplo sus divinidades, la manera de vestirse o sus peinados.

A ver qué nos espera en esta temporada en donde el calor está fuerte y la humedad más, pero la gana las supera!! Les iremos informando sobre nuestros hallazgos! Stay tuned!

Puesta en valor de estructuras en el Grupo IV de Palenque

El Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) publicó en su página de twitter un video del Grupo IV de Palenque, en donde se entrevista nuestro colaborador el Dr. Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo.

Como se menciona en la nota del INAH, se están interviniendo numerosos edificios en el Grupo IV, con el objetivo de consolidarlos para poder abrir al público esta zona del área arqueológica en el segundo semestre de 2023.

Más noticias a venir..

Siguen las excavaciones en el Grupo IV de Palenque

El dr. Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo, fundador del MayaArchaeoLab, y director del Proyecto Regional Palenque, sigue excavando en el Grupo IV de la antigua ciudad de Palenque, como parte del Programa de Mejoramiento de Zonas Arqueológicas (Promeza), vinculado al proyecto del Tren Maya.

El Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia ha publicado en su página la nota “Hallazgo de miles de restos cerámicos permitirá reconstruir la vida cotidiana de la antigua ciudad maya de Palenque (chequen la nota dando click en el link), resaltando el gran número de tiestos recuperados, que sobre todo remontan al siglo VII C.E., es decir que corresponden al reinado del gobernante K’inich Janaab Pakal.

Estos restos servirán para construir un catálogo de referencia sobre la cerámica de Palenque.

Mayalab collaborators in Rome, Italy!

Last week, Dra. Arianna Campiani and the University of Rome, Sapienza hosted a series of presentations/workshop around the subject of urbanism among the Classic Period Maya. Presenters included Arianna Campiani, Nicola Lercari, Lisa Johnson, Lucas Johnson, Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo, Rosemary Joyce, Felix Kupprat, Luisa Migliorati and Josep Ligorred Perramon. What a wonderful time in Rome and very interesting presentations!

Mayalab collaborators attend a workshop hosted by Arianna Campiani in Rome, Italy October 2022

UNAM Palenque team/INAH continues to work on a Lithic Workshop and Group IV ahead of the Maya Train

Mayaarchaeolab collaborators Rodrigo Liendo Stuardo and other UNAM affiliates along with INAH archaeologists are working hard ahead of the Maya train. As the infrastructure of the park undergoes an upgrade, the archaeologists are carefully documenting and analyzing a lithic workshop with evidence of extensive production of obsidian and chert no doubt to provision the once densely occupied city. It’s central location next to the Palace is also notable. Check out the video/interviews of our friends!

PREP Team Field Season 2022 Week 2

Work has picked up in the second week and the team has moved a lot of dirt even through the afternoon showers. In JO33, we have three excavations open across the southern most structure/rooms and have cleared and detailed the northern and the southern walls running east/west. The walls are complete with no entryways or stairs so we will open additional excavations next week to look for an access point into this area of the building.

Jordan and Mo bail water out of the excavations first thing in the morning (Photo: L. Johnson)

We finished the area outside of JO33, along the southern wall and came down to bedrock. It is clear this area was a large dump of household trash as there were bags and bags of ceramic sherds, lithic tools and debitage, figurines, whistles, faunal, shell, manos and metates removed from this area. The collection of figurines from this area is highly diverse. Surprisingly, there were no plaster floors detected outside of the structure (like a paved patio space) and instead, there was roughly 10 cm of a darker earth lens that was most likely an earthen floor. This level was sampled for paleoethnobotany and soil chemistry.

Southern wall of JO33 is cleared and detailed, excavations reached bedrock (Photo: L. Johnson)

Meanwhile, Lisa and her team continued to excavate the summit of the structure into large cobble fill. The team has not found any interior surfaces yet, but will continue into next week. The team will also extend excavations across the large mound to clear and define the architecture to the north.

Lisa and Marcellino take soil samples from the earthen floor outside of JO33 (Photo: J. Kobylt)
An armadillo figurine found outside of JO33 (photo: L. Johnson)

In the group of structures directly south of JO33 (and presumably a neighbor for the purposes of our neighborhood study), Arianna and her team have cleared and defined the southwest corner of the structure abutting the Motiepa. Like JO33, they have recovered a suite of materials typical of a residential group including manos and metates, figurines and pottery. Ari continues to look for the front of the structure but has so far only found collapse.

The southwest corner of the structure neighboring JO33, which backs up to the Motiepa (Photo: L. Johnson)

Arianna and Sergio look for the front of the structure (Photo: L. Johnson)

Next week promises to be another busy week as we will begin processing the artifacts from the excavations and continue defining architecture.