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Geophysical study supports legend of Zapotec “underworld” at Mitla

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A geophysical study led by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) has found possible evidence of tunnels beneath the church of San Pablo Apóstol at the Zapotec archaeological site of Mitla.

According to legend, the church was built on an entrance to an underground labyrinth and served as a gateway between the world of the living and the world of the dead, with the Nahuatl name Mictlán meaning the “place of the dead” or “underworld.”

Writing in 1674, a Dominican chronicler named Francisco Burgoa, described how a group of Spanish missionaries descended into a maze of tunnels beneath Mitla: “Such was the corruption and bad smell, the dampness of the floor, and a cold wind which extinguished the lights, that at the little distance they had already penetrated, they resolved to come out, and ordered this infernal gate to be thoroughly closed with masonry.”

Mitla was first inhabited by the Zapotec during the Classic Period (AD 100-650), emerging into a large religious centre in the present-day municipality of San Pablo Villa de Mitla, located in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mitla is unique among Mesoamerican sites because of its mix of Zapotec and Mixtec architectural styles, and elaborate mosaic fretwork and geometric designs that cover tombs, panels, friezes, and entire walls of the complex.

Archaeologists from INAH conducted non-invasive geophysical techniques using ground penetrating radar, electrical resistivity tomography, and environmental seismic noise interferometry tomograph, revealing evidence of anomalies in the subsoil beneath the church of San Pablo Apóstol.

According to the researchers, the results could indicate the existence of a system of tunnels at the rear of the church, as well as hollow areas below the sacristy and atrium of the church structure.

In a press announcement published by INAH: “It seems very likely that the most important Catholic church in Mitla was built on top of the main place of worship of the ancient Zapotec religion. However, these are indirect observations, which will require archaeological examination to materially confirm their validity and extent.”

INAH

Header Image Credit : Lyobaa Project

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Excavation of medieval shipbuilders reveals a Roman head of Mercury

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Excavations of a medieval shipbuilders has led to the discovery of a Roman settlement and a Roman head of Mercury.

The discovery was made at Smallhythe Place, a late 15th or early 16th century property managed by the National Trust near Tenterden in Kent, England.

Prior to the decline of the port and shipyard at Smallhythe during the 16th century, the local community played a crucial role in the shipbuilding industry, crafting vessels for notable figures, including members of royalty.

As part of a project funded by several UK institutions, over 60 volunteers from the National Trust participated in the excavation, along with professional archaeologists, students, and members of the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group.

The excavation has revealed traces of a Roman settlement that was occupied between the 1st and 3rd centuries, including an incredibly rare figurine made of pipeclay that depicts the god, Mercury.

Mercury was a major god in the Roman pantheon and was associated with financial gain, commerce, eloquence, messages, communication (including divination), travellers, boundaries, luck, trickery, and thieves. He also served as the guide of souls to the underworld and was the messenger of the gods.

According to a press announcement by the National Trust: “This complete figurine probably would have depicted Mercury standing, either draped with a chlamys (a short cloak), or naked, holding a caduceus (a staff with two intertwined snakes).”

The team also unearthed thousands of artefacts, providing evidence of the evolution of Smallhythe Place from a Georgian farm to a midden dump, a shipbuilding site, and a brickworks.

The National Trust said: “To support our investigations, we received grants from the National Trust’s Inclusive Archaeology, Robert Kiln and the Roman Research Funds and from the Royal Archaeological Institute. During 2023, our project has received funding from the Society of Antiquaries and the William and Edith Oldham Charitable Trust.”

Header Image Credit : James Dobson

Sources : National Trust – Exploring Smallhythe Place: Archaeological Investigations by the River Rother

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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Researchers find that Żagań-Lutnia5 is an Iron Age stronghold

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Archaeologists have conducted a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey of Żagań-Lutnia5, revealing that the monument is an Iron Age stronghold.

Żagań-Lutnia5 was first discovered in the 1960s near the town of Żagań in western Poland, with previous studies suggesting that the monument could be associated with the Białowieża group of the Lusatian urnfield culture.

The Lusatian culture existed in the later Bronze Age and early Iron Age (1300–500 BC) in most of what is now Poland. It formed part of the Urnfield systems found from eastern France, southern Germany and Austria to Hungary, and the Nordic Bronze Age in northwestern Germany and Scandinavia.

A recent study led by Dr. Arkadiusz Michalak on behalf of the Archaeological Museum of the Middle Oder River has revealed two parallel sequences of magnetic anomalies at Żagań-Lutnia5 that represent the remnants of earthen and wooden fortifications.

The course of the fortifications were recorded in the northern, western and southern parts of the study area, however, a study of the eastern section was limited due to a sewage collector built in the 1990’s.

Exploratory excavations found four cultural layers with remains of huts and hearths, in addition to a burnt layer from the last phase of occupation that suggests a period of conflict.

According to the researchers, the monument was likely built by the same people who constructed the stronghold in Wicin and a number of verified defensive settlements within the area of the Elbe, Nysa Łużycka and Odra.

As a result of the study, Żagań-Lutnia5 has been added to the catalogue of verified Early Iron Age strongholds located in today’s Lubusz Voivodeship.

Header Image Credit : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments

Sources : Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments – Archaeological research at the site of Żagań-Lutnia5

This content was originally published on www.heritagedaily.com – © 2023 – HeritageDaily

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