Category Archives: MEXICO

The Splendor of the Seven Descending Gods of Tulum Resurfaced

The Splendor of the Seven Descending Gods of Tulum Resurfaced

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says the splendor of the seven Descending Gods of Tulum has resurfaced. The work consisted of cleaning, adhesion of fragments, filling of gaps, patching, and color reintegration.

In December 2023, the restoration stage of the seven figures of descending gods and murals of the Conservation Project of Movable Assets Associated with Real Estate, of the Archaeological Zone of Tulum, in Quintana Roo, was completed, as part of the Archaeological Zones Improvement Program (Promeza), within the framework of the Mayan Train works.

During this project, the conservation-restoration of the mural painting and the stucco and flattened reliefs of the most emblematic buildings of the site was carried out. Those included the temples of the Frescos and the Descending God, the houses of Chultún and Halach Uinic (Palace of the Great Lord), and El Castillo, in which representations of said deity are preserved.

Tulum’s buildings date from A.D. 1250-1550, but features from earlier periods, such as a stela from A.D. 564, have also been discovered.

As a result, INAH believes the city may have been founded earlier, possibly as a dependent territory of the nearby Tankah ruins.

Tulum is believed to have been dedicated to Venus. Some building facades feature figures of a descending god depicted upside down, who is associated with the sunset and believed to be connected to the planet. The entrances to structures with descending god figures are said to face the direction in which Venus sets.

Little is known about the Descending God. However, the Descending God is associated with Ah Muu Zen Caab, the Maya God of Bees. This is not surprising, considering that honey was the staple export commodity in the Mayan trade between Tulum and Cobá.

The person responsible for the restoration project, Patricia Meehan Hermanson, explained that the descending god was the emblematic figure of the Costa Maya Oriental region in Quintana Roo.

Restaurateur Jesús Antonio Muñoz Cinta, who is part of the team, explained that its typical contorted position evokes a falling human body whose legs are open and flexed upward.

“The torso, from its back, is perceived partially or completely, the arms semi-arched, downward, holding some object, and the head almost always faces the viewer. Some of his attributes and attire tend to vary,” he said.

“Although images of characters in a descending position have been located in various areas of Mesoamerica, it is on the Eastern Coast where it takes a leading place, modeled in stucco attached to the architecture of several buildings in places such as Tulum, Cobá and Tancah, in addition having been represented in ceramics, codices and mural painting, during the Postclassic period (900-1542 AD),” he added.

During the field season that has just concluded, the seven descending gods found to date in Tulum were preserved. Other restoration projectes included Building 16 or Temple of the Frescoes where two were restored.

In Building 25 or House of Halach Huinik, one of the best preserved and most striking is located. Another is in the Temple of the Descending God, the best known in Tulum for giving its name to Building 5, which also preserves a high percentage of its body and the painting that decorated it. The remains of one more were found in a niche in Building 20.

In Building 1 or The Castle has two more figures, one is in the center of the temple frieze, and the other, below in the vaulted hallway, as part of a complex scene in a wall painting.

Hunting tools Dating Back 1900 Years Found inside a Cave in Querétaro, Mexico

Hunting tools Dating Back 1900 Years were found inside a Cave in Querétaro, Mexico

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) found hunting weapons dating back approximately 1,900 years in a cave in the central state of Querétaro.

The Federal Ministry of Culture, in collaboration with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), recovered one of the few sets of pre-Hispanic hunting tools discovered in Mexico to date in a small gallery of the Cave of Treasure in Cadereyta de Montes, Querétaro. It consists of an atlatl (spear) and two wooden darts from the first century of our era.

According to a press announcement by INAH, the discovery was reported by members of the Association of Cavers of Querétaro.

The cave is situated 200 meters above the ravine floor, and once at its entrance, researchers ventured 200 meters through a narrow passage to reach the gallery.

Within this underground branch, with an average height of 80 centimeters, specialists observed an atlatl (51.5 centimeters long), two fragmented darts (66 and 79 centimeters), and a pair of culturally modified wooden sticks (135 and 172 centimeters), likely used as digging sticks and multifunctional tools.

The atlatl is a spear-throwing lever that significantly increases the range and velocity of thrown projectiles, making it possible to target prey at a greater distance than with bare-handed throwing.

The dryness of the environment in the Treasure Cave allowed for the preservation of the hunting instruments, the age of which was determined using radiocarbon dating techniques. This gave a possible age range of A.D. 7-132.

During the exploration, the INAH team did not find other pre-Hispanic archaeological elements in the cave to provide an interpretation of why they were present in that remote location.

However, the results of a sample analysis will be announced by the team on the 27th of January 2024.

The INAH archaeologists said the mystery of the latest discoveries will persist until new investigations are carried out in the areas surrounding the cave. This may enable experts to determine how and why these instruments were left there.

Funerary urn depicting Maya corn god uncovered during Maya Train work

Funerary urn depicting Maya corn god uncovered during Maya Train work

Funerary urn depicting Maya corn god uncovered during Maya Train work

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) conducting salvage work along Section 7 of the Maya Train discovered a funerary urn with a carved image of a corn god.

According to a press announcement by INAH,  the general director of INAH, Diego Prieto Hernández, said that, in terms of its typology, this urn has been identified as a Paaktzatz-style vessel.

The funerary urn “presents a very interesting image of the corn god emerging from the leaves of a cob,” Hernández said.

According to Prieto Hernández, the urn was found near a similar vessel, which may indicate that the vessels were part of an ancient offering. Due to its typology, the clay pot has been identified as a Paaktzatz-style urn, containing human remains.

An anthropomorphic pastillage figure depicting the Maya corn god is seen on the funerary urn, according to a press release, and an owl is depicted on the lid, which is also present on the other vessel.

A funerary urn depicting the Maya corn god.

On the front of the vessel is a small anthropomorphic figure made of pastillage (a decorative technique using pieces of ceramic paste), alluding to the deity’s representation as an ear of corn in the growth stage.

In addition to the depiction of the corn god, the urn has ornamentation resembling the Mayan symbol “ik,” which represents wind and divine breath.

The ornamentation of the second vessel consists of applications on the sides, which simulate the thorns of a ceiba tree, a sacred tree among the Mayans of the past and present.

Archaeologists stated that similar images of the Maya deity have been found in figurines from the island of Jaina, in Campeche.

During the Classic Period of Maya iconography, the owl was considered an omen and a symbol of war. Paaktzatz vessels from the Río Bec region of Campeche, crafted between 680 and 770 A.D., provide evidence of this.

Archaeologists, archaeological work done through Jan. 8 on sections 5, 6 and 7 of the Maya Train has uncovered and protected 40,000 archaeological sites, some 1,000 artifacts, over 200,000 ceramic fragments, and 148 human burials.

Archaeologists discover a hidden Maya burial chamber in the walled enclosure of Tulum

Archaeologists discover a hidden Maya burial chamber in the walled enclosure of Tulum

Archaeologists discover a hidden Maya burial chamber in the walled enclosure of Tulum

Archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have discovered a hidden Maya burial chamber concealed within a cave at the archaeological complex in Tulum, Quintana Roo.

The discovery, sealed off by a massive rock deep inside Mexico’s walled city of Tulum, offers a rare glimpse into the funerary practices of this pre-Hispanic civilization.

By removing a large rock blocking the entrance to a hidden cave within the walled area of the Maya city, archaeologists uncovered the skeletal remains of several individuals.

The discovery was made during routine clearing work for a new visitor path, which is nestled between two prominent temples. A meticulously glued sea snail hinted at Maya craftsmanship, while a split human skeleton hinted at a deeper secret.

Upon removing the rock that sealed the entrance to the cavity, it was observed that it was literally splitting the skeletal remains of an individual, leaving the lower part of their body outside and the upper part inside. This would indicate that the person might have become trapped while attempting to access the cavity.

The project’s coordinator José Antonio Reyes Solís said in a statement that upon removing the boulder blocking the cave’s entrance, researchers saw that it had been splitting the ossified remains of an individual, leaving the lower part of the body on the outside and the upper part inside.

An archaeologist inside the newly discovered burial site at Tulum.

Inside the cramped cave, barely taller than half a meter, lay eight adult burials remarkably preserved by the cool, dry environment.

All materials are being studied further at INAH’s Quintana Roo Center by the head of the Department of Physical Anthropology, Allan Ortega Muñoz.

As the exploration of the cave progressed, The coordinator of the archaeological research project, José Antonio Reyes Solís said, it was identified that the topography shows at least two small chambers, located in the southern and northern parts, no more than 3 meters long by 2 meters wide, and an average height of 50 centimeters.

Likewise, a large number of skeletal remains of animals associated with the burials were recorded. According to the specialists in fauna identification, who collaborate on the project, Jerónimo Avilés and Cristian Sánchez, they correspond, in a preliminary manner, to various mammals (domestic dogs, mice, opossum, blood-sucking bats, white-tailed deer, tepezcuintle, armadillo nine banded, tapir, peccary); birds of the order Galliforme, Passeriforme, Pelecaniforme, Piciforme and Charadriiforme; reptiles (loggerhead sea turtle, land turtle and iguana); fish (tiger shark, barracuda, grouper, drum fish, puffer fish, eagle ray); crustaceans (crab and cirripedians), mollusks (snail) and amphibians (frog). Some bones have cut marks and others have been worked as artifacts, like punches, needles, or fan handles, characteristic of the area.

A single ceramic “molcajete” (grinding bowl) further pinpointed the burials to the late Postclassic period (1200-1550 AD).

In three of the burials, a small mortar of the type decorated with incisions was discovered, and it has been intervened by a restorer for preservation.

Archaeologists’ testimony describes the conditions inside the cave as particularly difficult, owing to the small entryways, low ceilings, lack of natural light, and general heat and humidity.  In addition to photos, a three-dimensional scan of the area will be made so that researchers and the general public can see the materials and remains in their original context.

Circular Maya Structure Uncovered in Southern Mexico

Circular Maya Structure Uncovered in Southern Mexico

Archaeologists have discovered an ancient structure in the jungles of Mexico that may have been linked to the cult of a Maya serpent deity.

A team of researchers with the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) uncovered the circular structure at the archaeological site of El Tigre, Campeche State, in the Yucatán Peninsula.

El Tigre likely corresponds to an ancient Maya settlement that was known as Itzamkanac, which was a regional capital and commercial hub. The inhabitants of the region were the Chontal or Putun Maya culture, who worshipped the serpent deity Kukulcán, among other gods.

John Kluge
The ancient circular structure at the archaeological site of El Tigre, Campeche state, Mexico. The structure likely supported a temple dedicated to the Maya deity Kukulcán.

The El Tigre site has a long history of occupation dating back more than 2,000 years until the era of Spanish colonization began in the 16th century.

The recently discovered structure dates to the period 1000–1200 A.D. and could be linked to the cult of Kukulcán, who is equivalent to the wind god Quetzalcóatl in Aztec mythology, INAH said in a press release.

The structure, which consists of two levels, likely supported a flat-roofed temple dedicated to Kukulcán, according to archaeologists. It is similar to several other structures that have previously been found across the Yucatán at sites such as Edzná, Becán, Uxmal, and Chichen Itzá.

The importance of the structure lies in its age, which corresponds to a time when the ancient Maya settlement maintained strong ties with other regions of Mesoamerica—such as central Mexico, Oaxaca, and the Gulf Coast.

These links would have enabled the spread of religious ideas between the Chontal Maya and the other regions. For example, while the cult of Kukulcán had its origins in earlier Maya traditions, it may have also been influenced by the Quetzalcóatl cult.

An important historical document of the region known as the Paxbolón Maldonado Papers, describes a settlement called Itzamkanac that features temples dedicated to the four main deities of the Postclassic period Maya, one of whom was Kukulcán.

The latest discovery of the circular structure that potentially represents the remains of a temple dedicated to Kukulcán suggests that El Tigre is the city of Itzamkanac described in historical sources, given the site’s location and other archaeological data, according to INAH researcher Ernesto Vargas Pacheco.

“This building broadens our knowledge of the late occupation of El Tigre. Circular structures generally correspond to the early postclassic period between A.D. 1000 and 1200, when the Maya zone had links with other regions of Mesoamerica,” INAH general director Diego Prieto said at a press conference.

The structure was found during archaeological rescue works conducted as part of the Tren Maya (Maya Train) project.

The project is an almost 1,000-mile-long railway, scheduled to start operating in December. It traverses Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, the heart of the ancient Maya civilization, which is rich in antiquities

Tren Maya is one of the largest and most controversial infrastructure projects in the history of Mexico. It aims to bring tourists from the region’s popular beach resorts to lesser-known inland locations, including historic Mayan sites, that represent some of the poorest parts of southern Mexico.

While thousands of ancient Maya artifacts and structures have been uncovered during work on the project, critics say it places others at risk of damage or destruction, as has already occurred. Some have also raised environmental concerns.

Long Lost Temple Unearthed in the Mexican City of Atlixco

Long-Lost Temple Unearthed in the Mexican City of Atlixco

Archaeologists have found the remains of an ancient Mexican temple that was thought to be little more than a legend.

The chapel of San Miguel sits atop the hill of the same name, but this Catholic structure actually hides the remnants of a far older, legendary temple.

Within the city of Atlixco in central Mexico, there has long been a rumor of a lost temple, or teocalli, that was built centuries before the Spanish arrived in the early 16th century.

According to the local people, the Atlixquenses, the temple was originally constructed on top of the San Miguel Hill where there is currently a Catholic chapel dedicated to the archangel Michael.

Despite these rumors, no archaeological evidence for this legendary temple had ever been found.

However, recent work carried out by the Ministry of Culture of the Government of Mexico through the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has discovered vestiges that confirm its existence.

The first evidence that led to this discovery appeared during efforts to renew the chapel’s lighting and to reinforce the paths leading up the hill. A team of researchers, coordinated by INAH archaeologists Miguel Medina Jaen and Carlos Cedillo Ortego, along with Elvia Cristina Sánchez de la Barquera, found artifacts – stone tools, ornaments, and clay vessels – that were over 1,000 years old.

These objects were created by the Mesoamerican Nahua, who lived in this region centuries before Europeans arrived.

The team carried out survey work inside and around the chapel’s atrium and found the remains of stone walls and floors that had belonged to an ancient temple that pre-dates the current structure. These remnants are buried around 90 centimeters (35 inches) below the foundations of the existing chapel.

This, according to a statement released by the INAH, sufficiently affirms that “a teocalli did exist on the summit of the hill, San Miguel, and that it had at least two construction stages.”

At present, it is not clear which divinity the temple was dedicated to. Among those who may have been the focus of attention were the deities Quetzalcóatl (creator and civilizer of humanity), Tláloc (giver of rain), or Macuilxóchitl (a patron of play, dance, and festivities).

However, more research is needed before any valid conclusions can be drawn. Other “segments of the teocalli and greater clues to clarify which was its titular deity still lie under the viceregal chapel of San Miguel Arcángel,” the statement adds.

“Even with this aura of mystery, the archaeological confirmation of that ancient popular belief of more than 400 years will help strengthen the identity of the Atlixquenses.”

2,000-year-old Flower Bouquet in ‘Very Good Condition’ Found Under Mexican Pyramid

2,000-year-old Flower Bouquet in ‘Very Good Condition’ Found Under Mexican Pyramid

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the ancient people of Teotihuacan wrapped bunches of flowers into beautiful bouquets, laid them beneath a jumble of wood and set the pile ablaze.

Now, archaeologists have found the remains of those surprisingly well-preserved flowers in a tunnel snaking beneath a pyramid of the ancient city, located northeast of what is now Mexico City. 

The pyramid itself is immense and would have stood 75 feet (23 meters) tall when it was first built, making it taller than the Sphinx of Giza from ancient Egypt.

The Temple of the Feathered Serpent at Teotihuacan, Mexico

The Teotihuacan pyramid is part of the “Temple of the Feathered Serpent,” which was built in honour of Quetzalcoatl, a serpent god who was worshipped in Mesoamerica. 

Archaeologists found the bouquets 59 feet (18 m)  below ground in the deepest part of the tunnel, said Sergio Gómez-Chávez, an archaeologist with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) who is leading the excavation of the tunnel.

A digital reconstruction of the tunnel running under the pyramid at Teotihuacan.

Numerous pieces of pottery, along with a sculpture depicting Tlaloc, a god associated with rainfall and fertility, were found beside the bouquets, he added. 

The bouquets were likely part of rituals, possibly associated with fertility, that Indigenous people performed in the tunnel, Gómez-Chávez told Live Science in a translated email.

The team hopes that by determining the identity of the flowers, they can learn more about the rituals. 

One of the 2,000-year-old bouquets is prepped for research.

The team discovered the bouquets just a few weeks ago. The number of flowers in each bouquet varies, Gómez-Chávez said, noting that one bouquet has 40 flowers tied together while another has 60 flowers. 

Archaeologists found evidence of a large bonfire with numerous pieces of burnt wood where the bouquets were laid down, Gómez-Chávez said.

It seems that people placed the bouquets on the ground first and then covered them with a vast amount of wood. The sheer amount of wood seems to have protected the bouquets from the bonfire’s flames. 

The tunnel that Gómez-Chávez’s team is excavating was found in 2003 and has yielded thousands of artefacts including pottery, sculptures, cocoa beans, obsidian, animal remains and even a miniature landscape with pools of liquid mercury.

Archaeologists are still trying to understand why ancient people created the tunnel and how they used it.

Teotihuacan contains several pyramids and flourished between roughly 100 B.C. and A.D. 600. It had an urban core that covered 8 square miles (20 square kilometres) and may have had a population of 100,000 people. 

A palatial 1,500-year-old Maya structure unearthed in Mexico

A palatial 1,500-year-old Maya structure unearthed in Mexico

A palatial 1,500-year-old Maya structure unearthed in Mexico
Here we see the foreground of one of the buildings during the restoration process.

Archaeologists in Mexico have discovered two housing complexes, including a palace-like building, in the roughly 1,500-year-old Maya city of Kabah on the Yucatán Peninsula.

The team unearthed the buildings, which are the first evidence of residential buildings at this archaeological site, ahead of the Maya Train railroad project, a 930-mile-long (1,500-kilometer) railway that will run through the Yucatán Peninsula.

The palace-like structure is 85 feet (26 meters) long and is decorated with carvings of birds, feathers, and beads, Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said in a translated statement.

The building’s façade has a portico that includes eight pilasters, and rectangular columns that project from the walls.

The palace and the other housing complex were elite living spaces where people slept, ate and lived their daily lives, Lourdes Toscano Hernández, an archaeologist with the INAH who co-led the team, told Live Science in a translated email.

A lineage of people who ruled the city would have lived in the buildings, although their names are not known, Toscano Hernández said.

A view of Kabah, which means “Lord of the strong or powerful hand” in Mayan.

The buildings also may have been used for administrative functions, Toscano Hernández said, noting that public meetings may have been carried out nearby.

The carvings of birds, feathers and beads on the palace-like structure may have symbolized the relationship between the elites who lived in these structures and the Maya gods — something that would have helped to legitimize their status, Toscano Hernández said.

A view of the buildings in the Kabah archaeological zone.

Until recently, the housing complexes, along with other parts of the ancient city, were covered with vegetation, the INAH statement noted.

It’s unclear exactly when the buildings were built, but the city was founded sometime between A.D. 250 and 500 by people who came from the Petén region, an area that includes Guatemala and Belize, according to the statement.

Toscano Hernández said the city’s first ruler may have lived in the structures.

A palatial 1,500-year-old Maya structure unearthed in Mexico
A general view of the Petén palace.

Within the buildings, archaeologists found the remains of pottery, including painted vessels and ceramics that had a utilitarian use, the statement said. Research at the site is ongoing.

The Maya flourished in the region between 250 and 900. While many cities collapsed around 900, new cities, such as Chichén Itzá, were built. Today, their descendants, the modern-day Maya, number in the millions and can be found all over the world.