mesoamerica and the maya world

Category: discoveries

Maya blue

blue maya warrior

Anyone who has lived in the Maya world for any time at all knows that the Maya are magicians with color. One of puzzlements of the historical Maya has been how they created a blue color that was more resistant to fading than most natural pigments. The historical Maya used this color on ceramics and, because it recalled the rain god Chac, in their sacrifices.

It has been known that two of the ingredients were indigo plant extract and a clay called palygorskite. But “Nobody has ever really figured out how those two key ingredients were fused into a very stable pigment,” according to Gary Feinman, curator of anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago. Now Feinman, together with Dean E. Arnold, professor of anthropology at Wheaton College, believe they have figured out the secret of the ancient Maya concoction.

“We think that copal, the sacred incense, may have been a third ingredient,” says Feinman. “Heat and perhaps copal resin were the keys to fusing the indigo extract and the clay mineral.”


Full story at Live Science
Shown is a detail of an image from Will Merydith’s photostream

Ancient pyramid found in Mexico City

The pyramid, about 36 feet high, was found in the central Tlatelolco area. The discovery pushes back the date of the founding of Tlatelolco by a couple of centuries, meaning the Aztec presence in central Mexico began earlier than previously supposed.

via Yahoo news

Ancient Offerings Found at Nevado de Toluca

An AP article announces the find by scuba divers of what may be Aztec offerings deep in a volcanic crater lake west of Mexico City. The snow-capped volcano lies at 13,800 feet above sea level.

Research is being led by Stanislaw Iwaniszewski of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Mexico. Among the finds are lightning bolt-shaped scepters, copal incense, obsidian knives, and maguey cactus spines.

The lightning bolt scepter indicate offerings to the rain god Tlaloc (Chac is the Maya equivalent). Obsidan knives were traded through Mesoamerica. The cactus spines would have been used in blood letting.

Some of the materials are said to date to 100 BCE, which of course is more than a millennium before the appearance of the Aztecs (who headline the AP article).

Ancient Maya Tomb Found in Copan

maya tomb

The tomb is dated to 650, placing it near the beginning of the Late Classic period. With typical journalistic hype, the National Geographic article announcing the find states that “until now, much about the political makeup and cultural range of the city—famous for its funerary slabs—has been poorly understood.” As if this discovery suddenly makes everything clear.

In fact, the discovery raises more questions than it answers. Why was this individual buried far from the Acropolis, the main Copan center, where other burials have been found? Why is he seated in a cross-legged position that is not typical of Maya burials? Why was he buried with ceramics, apparently from the region of present-day El Savador, that bear non-Maya heiroglyphs?

The find reminds us that the tropical forests of the lowland Maya hide many secrets, and despite astonishing advances by Mayanists over the past several decades there is still much we don’t understand. It will be some time until we make sense of this find.

The image is taken from the National Geographic article.

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