Category Archives: MEXICO

Mexico: 3,000-year-old Mayan ceremonial complex discovered in Tabasco

Mexico: 3,000-year-old Mayan ceremonial complex discovered in Tabasco

In the latest breakthrough discovery of lost civilization, researchers have found the largest and the oldest Mayan site through a unique laser technology called lidar.

Using the aerial remote-sensing method, researchers at the University of Arizona found a colossal rectangular elevated platform that was built between 1000 and 800BC in Tabasco state, Mexico.

The new structure is located at the site called Aguada Fenix that liest near the border of Guatemala, which in its total volume exceeds the 1,500-year-old Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. 

The site, called Aguada Fénix, is located in the state of Tabasco, at the base of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s so vast for its age, the find is making archaeologists recalibrate their timelines on the architectural capabilities of the mysterious Maya.

Aguada Fénix, which measures over 1,400 meters (almost 4,600 ft) in length at its greatest extent, dates to a similar timeframe, with researchers estimating it was built between 1000 and 800 BCE – but its immense size and scope make it unlike anything found before from the period.

Airborne remote sensing allowed scientists to create a 3-D rendering of newly discovered Aguada Fénix, including the 3,000-year-old Maya site’s massive ceremonial plateau with a platform and mound in its center.

“To our knowledge, this is the oldest monumental construction ever found in the Maya area and the largest in the entire pre-Hispanic history of the region,” the researchers, led by archaeologist Takeshi Inomata from the University of Arizona, explain in a new paper about the discovery.

What’s even more staggering is that this huge, unknown structure has actually been hiding in plain sight for centuries, seemingly unrecognised by the modern Mexicans living their lives on top of the vast complex.

“This area is developed,” Inomata says. “It’s not the jungle; people live there. But this site was not known because it is so flat and huge. It just looks like a natural landscape.”

Despite Aguada Fénix’s inconspicuousness, it can’t hide from non-human eyes.

Aerial surveys using LIDAR detected the anomaly, revealing an elevated platform measuring 1,413 metres north to south, and 399 metres east to west, and extending up to 15 metres above the surrounding area.

“Artificial plateaus may be characterised as horizontal monumentality, which contrasts with the vertical dimensions of pyramids,” the authors write, noting the layout of Aguada Fénix marks it as an example of the Middle Formative Usumacinta (MFU) pattern, characterised by a rectangular shape defined by rows of low mounds.

Nine wide causeways extend from the platform, which is also surrounded by a number of smaller structures, including smaller MFU complexes and artificial reservoirs.

It’s difficult to see the remains of Aguada Fénix from this aerial view of the landscape today. But laser technology gave researchers a look at the site’s causeways and reservoirs, in front, and ceremonial area, in back.

The site bears certain similarities to the Olmec sites San Lorenzo and La Venta in the nearby state of Veracruz, but Aguada Fénix’s lack of human-shaped statues could provide a clue about the ancient Maya that inhabited this complex, distinguishing them from the Olmec.

“Unlike those Olmec centres, Aguada Fénix does not exhibit clear indicators of marked social inequality, such as sculptures representing high-status individuals,” the authors write.

“The only stone sculpture found so far at Aguada Fénix depicts an animal.”

Excavations of the oldest and largest Maya ceremonial structure unearthed an animal sculpture, possibly representing a white-lipped peccary or a coatimundi, that the researchers nicknamed Choco.

If the researchers are right about that, the site could be hugely important in helping us understand more about how these enigmatic human societies functioned and organized themselves – especially if they embraced a communal form of societal structure that rejected hierarchical forms.

“This kind of understanding gives us important implications about human capability, and the potential of human groups,” Inomata says.

“You may not necessarily need a well-organized government to carry out these kinds of huge projects. People can work together to achieve amazing results.”

Archaeologists Discover More Than 200-Year-Old Shipwreck In Mexico’s Caribbean

Archaeologists Discover More Than 200-Year-Old Shipwreck In Mexico’s Caribbean.

QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO— BBC reports that an eight-foot cannon, anchor, and pig-iron ingots thought to have been used as a ship’s ballast were spotted by a fisherman in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of southern Mexico.

The wreckage rests in shallow waters and rough ocean currents at the Banco Chinchorro atoll reef, a dangerous area where 70 historic shipwrecks have been registered.

Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History said the vessel could be the remains of an English sailing ship built in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.

They believe the ship sank more than 200 years ago after hitting a reef. While most of the wood has rotted away, the ship’s cannon and anchor are well preserved.

The wreck has been named after Manuel Polanco, the fisherman who first spotted it and reported it to Mexico’s National Archaeological Institute.

‘Nightmare Reef’

The wreck was found in the waters of the Banco Chinchorro atoll reef, about 35km from Majahual on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, and is thought to date back to the late 18th or early 19th Century.

The archaeologists think that it sank after hitting the Chinchorro Bank, which was colloquially known as “Nightmare reef” or “Sleep-robbing reef” because of the dangers it posed to seafarers.

Mexico has declared the area an underwater cultural heritage site because of the many wrecks which can be found there, including two Spanish galleons.

The Manuel Polanco is the seventieth wreck to be found in the area.

The anchor was found in shallow waters at Banco Chinchorro
Underwater archaeologists said the currents where the cannon was found were strong

Mexico’s National Archaeological Institute (INAH) was alerted to the remains of the sailing ship – an anchor, a 2.5m-long (8ft) cannon, and pig iron ingots believed to have been used for ballast – by fisherman Manuel Polanco.

Mr. Polanco, who is now retired and in his 80s, already made some remarkable discoveries in the 1960s and 70s.

Among his best-known finds are the wreck of a ship dubbed “40 cañones” (40 cannons) and “The Angel”, a sailing ship which transported logwood – a natural source of purple dye – from Mexico to Europe.

He spotted the remains which INAH archaeologists are now studying as early as the 1990s, but archaeologists only carried out their first dives to inspect it in the past two months.

To honour his contribution to underwater archaeology, INAH scientists decided to name the newly located wreck after Mr. Polanco.

Due to his advanced age, Mr. Polanco did not accompany the archaeologists but sent his son Benito to help archaeologists locate the wreck instead.

The INAH scientists think the remains could have belonged to a British sailing ship but said they needed to carry out further studies before they could confirm its origin.

Skeletons of over 60 mammoths found under-construction site of future Mexico airport

Skeletons of over 60 mammoths found under-construction site of future Mexico airport

In the future airport of the city, a team of archeologists working near Mexico City has discovered the remains of more than 60 mammoths.

The bone fragments found at the proposed construction site of the Felipe Angeles International Airport date back some 15,000 years, said the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

Both discoveries reveal how appealing the area — once a shallow lake — was for the mammoths.

Thursday, the National Institute of Anthropology and History said there was no immediate evidence that the 60 mammoths newly discovered at the old Santa Lucia military airbase had been butchered by humans.

The remains were uncovered close to the spot where the airport’s future control tower is to be built. INAH excavators have been working at the site – some 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) north of the capital – since April last year, seeking animal remains from the Pleistocene era.

The team reported in December that it had found the bones of a far smaller number of animals at the old Santa Lucia Air Base, a military airport being converted for civilian use.

The area was formerly submerged under the Xaltocan Lake, part of the Mexican Basin, and a focal point of the country’s pre-Colombian civilization. Traps for the hunting of mammoths, thought to have been dug soon after the lake dried up, were found at the site last year.

Almost all of the giant skeletons are thought to belong to the Colombian mammoth species.

Other types of fauna, including bison, camels, and horses were also found, as well as bones of humans buried in the pre-Hispanic era and various artifacts.

“The main challenge is that the richness of fauna and relics is greater than we had considered,” Pedro Francisco Sánchez Nava, INAH’s national anthropology coordinator told Mexico’s Excelsiornewspaper.

INAH says the discoveries are not intended to put a brake on the building of the airport, and that they had little impact on the building work.

“It would be a lie to say that we have not had an influence on the work being carried out, but we are working in coordination with those responsible,” said Sanchez Nava. “We are able to continue at our own pace without having too much influence on the times of the work.”

Scientists find evidence of fires built in Yucatán cave 10,000 years ago

Scientists find evidence of fires built in Yucatán cave 10,000 years ago

In Mexico the oldest traces of charcoal ever discovered is found in a cenote of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Recent archeological evidence from tests of burnt charcoal has shown that the first inhabitants on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico constructed bonfires in the cave now flooded with water for over 10,000 years.

Chemical charred samples of 14 prehistory bonfires were obtained by the scientists of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in 2017 and 2018 from the cenote of Aktun Ha (sinkhole) at a distance of around nine kilometers from Tulum, Quintana Roo.

In late April this year archaeologist Luis Alberto Martos López authored an article about the charcoal sample analysis which was published in the journal  Geoarchaeology detailing how they had all been found in the Ancestors Chamber of the Aktun Ha cenote.

The subsequent study included controlled heating experiments, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and carbon dating to determine the fires had burned between “10,250 and 10,750 years ago.”

Studies show that bonfires in the Aktun Ha cenote were created by a man more than 10,000 years ago.

Located beside the Tulum-Cobá highway the cenote is known locally as the “Car Wash,” for before becoming a major heritage and tourist attraction taxi drivers used to get water for washing their cars.

The dating of the fires corresponds to the early Holocene period, which is the geological epoch we are still in that began more than 11,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, and the 14 charcoal remnants have been called the “oldest ever discovered in a Yucatán Peninsula cenote” according to a report in Mexico News Daily.

Mr. Martos López said this finding is helping him and his fellow scientists to reconstruct the history of fire in the Americas which he believes is of great importance for the “study of evolution and human migration.”

Before this discovery was cemented as bonafide archaeology the scientists first had to negate the possibility that waters from elsewhere had swept the charcoal remains into the cenote cave.

And increasing this possibility, in 2018, the discovery of an underground link between the Sac Actun underwater river system which is approximately 263 kilometers long, and the Dos Ojos system in Tulum which is 84 kilometers long, which Geo Mexico called “the world’s largest underwater cave system .” However, the archaeologists were able to determine that the fires had been burned locally to the cenote.

Studies show that bonfires in the Aktun Ha cenote were created by a man more than 10,000 years ago. Octavio del Río in front of the main bonfire.

Analysis of the charcoal revealed the fires had reached temperatures as high as 600 C and archaeological divers discovered stone tools and artifacts in the cave, such as hammers and scraper tools, suggesting it was a temporary shelter where butchery and cooking occurred.

But the researchers say the early hunter-gatherers who lived on the Yucatán Peninsula may have used the Ancestors Chamber “for ritual purposes”.

Describing how the ancient sacred site was accessed over 10 millennia ago, Martos explained that to get into the cave in prehistoric times people would have had to crawl through “a narrow five-meter-long tunnel whose entrance was hidden by a mound of rocks.”

At the end of the tunnel, the Ancestors Chamber of the Aktun Ha cenote measures 20 square meters high and five to six meters wide, and around 10,000 years ago a natural well-formed at the back of the cave and Martos explained that before it was flooded with water it had been “well ventilated allowing the fire smoke to escape.”

Inhabitants of the Chamber of Ancestors of the Aktun Ha cenote. 

This new discovery jigsaw into the content of a Feb 2020 news article I wrote for Archaeology org about new research published in the journal  PLOS One detailing the discovery of “a 9,900-year-old human skeleton,” found in the Chan Hol cave, near the Tulum archaeological site in Quintana Roo.

Belonging to a woman who had died in her 30s, the archaeologists referred to her as being among the “first people to set foot in the Americas.”

In context, when this 9,000-year-old woman sat around a fire at night considering where she might have come from, her fire burning ancestors who left the charcoal behind in the Aktun Ha cenote were as distant to her as the Norman Invasion of Britain in 1066 AD is to us, having occurred almost 1,000 before our present day.

It seems that as technologies rapidly advance, every few months archaeologists in Mexico push back the anthological clock penetrating deeper into our Ancient Origins, and very soon we may have an answer to the big question: where did the 10,000-year-old fire starters come from?

1,600-Year-Old Elongated Skull with Stone-Encrusted Teeth Found in Mexico Ruins

1,600-Year-Old Elongated Skull with Stone-Encrusted Teeth Found in Mexico Ruins

The 1600-year-old skeleton of an upper-class woman whose skull was purposely deformed and teeth encrusted with mineral stones was found by archeologists near ancient Teotihuacan ruins of Mexico.

Archeologists who found the 1,600-year-old skeleton near Mexico’s ancient Teotihuacan said the woman was 35-40 when she died with intentionally deformed skull and teeth encrusted with mineral stones

When she died, between the ages of 35 and 40, the woman was buried with 19 jars that served as offerings, the National Anthropology and History Institute said.

The institute said in a statement that her cranium had been elongated by being compressed in a “very extreme” manner, a technique commonly used in the southern part of Mesoamerica, not the central region where she was found.

Her teeth contained two round pyrite stones, which were encrusted in her top front teeth.

This was a practice that was used among the nobility in Maya regions in southern Mexico and Central America. 

The Maya are credited with being the masters of cosmetic dentistry as they were known to decorate teeth by embedding them with precious stones or by carving notches and grooves into them.

Tiny holes were chipped out of teeth and ornamental stones—including jade—were attached with an adhesive made out of natural resins, such as plant sap, which was mixed with other chemicals and crushed bones.

The dentists likely had a sophisticated knowledge of tooth anatomy because they knew how to drill into teeth without hitting the pulp inside.

Gold studded teeth, Pre-Columbian Ecuador.

Last year, archaeologists discovered liquid mercury in a subterranean tunnel beneath the Temple of the Feathered Serpent in Teotihuacan, which may represent an underworld river that leads the way to a Royal tomb or tombs.

The remains of the kings of Teotihuacan, some of the most powerful rulers of the pre-Hispanic world, have never been found.

Such a discovery would be monumental as it would unravel many of the mysteries surrounding this ancient civilization.

The enigmatic pre-Hispanic city of Teotihuacan, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of Mexico City, thrived between the first and eighth centuries, after which its civilization vanished.

Its two majestic Sun and Moon pyramids are major tourist attractions.

The 1,600-year-old skeleton of an upper-class woman found near Mexico’s ancient Teotihuacan wore a prosthetic lower tooth made of a green stone known as serpentine

Studies of bodies buried 500 years ago in Mexico reveal stories of 3 African slaves

Studies of bodies buried 500 years ago in Mexico reveal stories of 3 African slaves

The men excavating a new metro line in central Mexico City stumbled on a long-lost cemetery in the late 1980s. Documents showed it had once been connected to a colonial hospital built between 1529 and 1531—only about 10 years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico—for Indigenous patients.

Three stood out as archeologists excavated the uncovered skeletons. Their teeth were filed into shapes similar to those of enslaved Africans from Portugal and people living in parts of West Africa.

Chemical and genetic studies also suggest that these people are among the first African generation to arrive in the Americas, likely as early victims of the burgeoning transatlantic slave trade.

The skulls of the men buried in Mexico City whose bodies were found in the 1990s.
The skulls of the men buried in Mexico City whose bodies were found in the 1990s.

Tens of thousands of slaves and free Africans lived in Mexico during the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, almost all Mexicans have little African ancestry

Rodrigo Barquera, a graduate student in archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, suspected the remains might offer a window into lives often left out of historical records.

To confirm their origins, he and his adviser Johannes Krause extracted DNA and analyzed chemical isotopes, including strontium, carbon, and nitrogen, from their teeth.

Their DNA revealed that all three were men with ancestry from West Africa. (Researchers couldn’t connect them to particular countries or groups.) And the ratios of the chemicals in their teeth, which preserve a signature of the food and water they consumed as children, were consistent with West African ecosystems, the researchers report today in Current Biology.

“It’s really nice to see how well the different lines of evidence come together,” says Anne Stone, an anthropological geneticist at Arizona State University, Tempe, who wasn’t involved with the research.

All three skeletons, now at the National School of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, show signs of trauma and violence.

Remains of the three men show signs of physical abuse, such as the green stains produced by a gunshot wound.

The men were likely in their late 20s or early 30s when they died. Before that, one man survived several gunshot wounds, and he and another man showed a thinning of their skull bones associated with malnutrition and anemia.

The third man’s skeleton showed signatures of stress from grueling physical labor, including a poorly healed broken leg. These signs of abuse make it likely that the men were enslaved rather than free, Krause says.

The two men with malnutrition also carried pathogens linked to chronic diseases, according to a genetic analysis of the microbes preserved in their teeth.

One had the hepatitis B virus, and the other carried the bacterium that causes yaws, a disease in the same family as syphilis.

Both microbes were most closely related to African strains, making it likely the men caught these pathogens in Africa. Or perhaps they picked up the microbes on an overcrowded slave ship voyaging to the Americas, suggests Ayana Omilade Flewellen, an archaeologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who studies the experiences of enslaved Africans and wasn’t involved in the study.

Such journeys killed millions between the 16th and 19th centuries. Either way, this is direct evidence that the transatlantic slave trade introduced novel pathogens to the Americas, Krause says, just as European colonization did.

The three men survived all these hardships. In fact, researchers still aren’t sure what killed them.

They were buried in a mass grave in the hospital’s cemetery that could be linked to an epidemic, perhaps of smallpox or measles. But researchers didn’t find DNA from deadly infectious diseases in their remains.

The men’s presence in a hospital for Indigenous people highlights the largely forgotten diversity of early colonies in the Americas, Flewellen says. “We need to break out of the binary of just Native [American] and European experiences” and remember that Africans were part of the story as well.

Postclassic Period Maya Village Discovered in Mexico

Postclassic Period Maya Village Discovered in Mexico

In between the Mangroves and the Forest, experts from the Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) documented the Post-Classic Mayan Pre-Hispanic Settlement (1200-1546 AD), which represents the first of that era detected in the locality on the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula.

The ancient village named by the specialists of the INAH Quintana Roo Center, as Mahahual has as a particularity remarkable proximity to the Caribbean coast, for which, together with the fact that all the structures located at this time are of residential or water supply structures, it is theorized that the fundamental vocations of those who inhabited it were fishing and agriculture.

However, according to archaeologist Fernando Cortés de Brasdefer, a continuation of research work will be carried out at the site to find any indications of elite zones, or ritual or civic-religious areas, because the area prospected in the first stage of the study, was only 1.5 kilometers long by 450 meters wide.

Until now little was known about the presence of farming and fishing villages on the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, almost on the Belizean border

“Up to now the settlement has a heterogenous network form which is a conformation interweaving paths constituted by family estates that gave origin to a large group of highly organized people”.

So, he explains, what the current inhabitants of Mahahual had believed were natural stone walls, in fact are constructions that bordered lands in whose interior were orchards and “small houses made of guano palm and mud walls built upon limestone platforms equal to the traditional houses built by the contemporary Maya”.

The surface tours carried out by archaeologists, at the request of the owner of the land, for which a tourism development project is planned, reveal to now an estimated 80 structures: most of them water-related habitational vestiges, man-made vessels to collect the vital liquid; and ‘sartenejas’ natural wells that were dug to reach aquifers.

The region on which the archaeological site is located also has cenotes, caves and caverns, as well as various elements that over time have accumulated there, for example, remains of a metal boiler, which is calculated to be from the Porfirian era.

Another peculiarity of Mahahual is that no additional objects such as ceramic remains, stone (lithic) or bone elements have been found. This could be explained by the fact that the site was occupied for a relatively short generational time.

For now, the researchers of the INAH Quintana Roo Center continue working with the research team and reports will be delivered to the Institute’s Council of Archaeology.

A copy of the file will also be made available to the individual who requested the inspection, together with pertinent indications in order to compel all those involved to further research, conserve and protect the archaeological heritage detected.

Fernando Cortés concludes that although Mahahual is not a site with large ritual structures it still is important because it provides new data revealing to which geographies of the eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula, closest to the border with Belize, the Mayans extended.

“We know little about the way of life of those who lived in this region; however, this survey reveals that they could have been farmers who complemented their diet with fishing.

In addition, their direct access to the sea would have given them advantages to exchange commercial products with other coastal and inland peoples”, he concluded

Cave Full of Untouched Maya Artifacts Found at Chichén Itzá

Cave Full of Untouched Maya Artifacts Found at Chichén Itzá

In Mexico, archeologists found some 200 Mayan artifacts that seem to have been untouched for 1,000 years. In a cave of ruins in the ancient Mayan City of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico, objects were discovered.

The discovery has been revealed at a press conference in Mexico City by the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History. The lead researcher on the project is Mexican archaeologist Guillermo de Anda. He called the cave a “scientific treasure.”

He said the artifacts appear to date back to around A.D. 1000. “What we found there was incredible and completely untouched,” he added.

Pre-columbian artifacts sit in a cave at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

The findings included bone pieces and burnt offering materials. In addition, incense burners, vases, plates, and other objects were discovered. Some items included the likeness of Tlaloc, the rain god of central Mexico.

The Mayans also had their own rain god, called Chaac. But experts believe the Mayans may have imported Tlaloc from other pre-Hispanic cultures.

The cave where the objects were found is part of a cave system known as Balamku or “Jaguar God.” The cave is about three kilometers east of the main pyramid of Kukulkan, which sits at the center of Chichen Itza.

The stone city is described by the United Nations as “one of the greatest Mayan centers of the Yucatán Peninsula.”

The cave sits about 24 meters underground, with areas connected by passages. De Anda said some of the passages were so narrow that researchers had to crawl in or pull themselves through.

Pre-columbian artifacts sit in a cave at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico

He added that his team had so far explored about 460 meters of the cave, and is unsure how far it stretches. The team plans to continue exploring the cave. Artifacts found will not be removed, but studied inside, he said.

The team accidentally found the artifacts while exploring Chichen Itza in an effort to learn more about its underground water system.

A series of sinkhole lakes, known as cenotes, can be seen on parts of the surface. But the archaeologists are exploring other water sites below pyramids, temples, and other buildings.

Water was always central to the city. Its name in Maya means “at the mouth of the well of the Water Wizards.”

The cave had been discovered by local people 50 years ago, but was not fully explored, de Anda said. He hopes the new discovery will help scientists better understand the history, lives, and beliefs of people who lived in Chichen Itza.

He said archaeologists believe there may be another undiscovered cave hidden under the pyramid of Kukulkan that could be connected to the latest find.

“Let’s hope this leads us there,” de Anda said. “That is part of the reason why we are entering these sites, to find a connection to the cenote under the (Kukulkan).”