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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Un altar maya prehispánico en estado de conservación inaudito, el cráneo de un hombre muerto hace más de 10 mil años y restos de magafauna, fueron hallados en zonas de Muyil, Tulum y Chumpón, Quintana Roo, por investigadores del proyecto Gran Acuífero Maya del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia; de acuerdo con un comunicado, los hallazgos podrían aportar información valiosa sobre el cambio climático, los primeros pobladores de América y la ritualidad maya. (Foto: INAH)