2,700-yr-old pyramid tomb with royal burials, jewels unearthed in Mexico

Friday, November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - A 2,700-year-old pyramid tomb containing royal burials and jewels was uncovered in Mexico by archaeologists from Brigham Young University.

The tomb in Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico, could resolve the debate of when and how the mysterious Zoque civilization arose, according to excavation leader Bruce Bachand.

The three-story-tall pyramid was a “visually permanent and physically imposing reminder” of the people’s past rulers and emerging cultural identity, said Bachand.

The two rulers found with the pyramid-top tomb had been coated head-to-toe in sacred red pigment. At the centre of the tomb, the team found a male in a pearl-beaded loincloth. To his side lay a companion, likely a female.

Their waists had jade beads shaped like howler monkeys, crocodiles, and gourds. Seashells inlaid with obsidian formed tiny masks for their mouths, which in turn held jade and pyrite ornaments.

Lying around the royal corpses were offerings to the gods: ceramic pots, ritual axes perhaps associated with fertility, iron-pyrite mirrors, and a red-painted stucco mask.

“We are trying to distill from the archaeology how the Zoque emerged out of an Olmec ancestral base, and it seems like it happened right around the time this tomb appeared,” National Geographic News quoted Bachand as saying.

As Chiapa de Corzo gained wealth and power it began to assert its own identity, as the tomb revealed, he said. On the other hand, the human remains lack the large jade earspools and breastplates commonly found on Olmec remains.

And the tomb’s stone and clay walls and wooden ceiling represent a unique Zoque style that persisted at Chiapa de Corzo for centuries, Bachand said.

“We think that this is a parting moment” for the Zoque, Bachand said.

“Yes, there are Olmec elements lingering around and being incorporated into their culture, but at the same time they are starting to move out and move on.”

Bachand’s theory of Chiapa de Corzo as an emerging capital finds agreement with Mesoamerican-civilization expert Robert Rosenswig.

“To have a powerful ruling dynasty established at Chiapa de Corzo beginning sometime around 700 B.C. sounds perfectly reasonable. Things were becoming considerably more complex, and it is fairly evident that these groups were all in contact with each other,” he said.

To make his theory concrete, Bachand and his team are digging deeper into the pyramid, hoping to find evidence of more direct contact with the Olmec capital. (ANI)

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