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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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Archaeology

Trove of Roman objects linked to feasting found at Ostia antica

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Archaeologists have uncovered a trove of Roman objects linked to ritual feasting at Ostia antica.

Ostia Antica is an ancient harbour town located at the mouth of the Tiber River. The harbour served as the main port for Rome, transporting goods and people from the coast along the Via Ostiensis.

Archaeologists recently excavated the area of Regio I – Insula XV, a “sacred area” or precinct housing several temples and sanctuaries. At the centre is the temple of Hercules,  a 31 x 16 metre monument which dates from the Republican Era.

Excavations have revealed a substantial well situated at the base of the temple of Hercules. Upon draining the well, it was discovered to hold a significant collection of objects dating from the 1st to 2nd century AD.

Among the objects are various ceramics, miniatures, lamps, glass containers, fragments of marble, and burnt animal bones (pigs and cattle). According to the archaeologists, the trove corresponds with ritual feasting associated with cult at the temple.

In a press statement by the Ministry of Culture: “The discovery of burnt bones confirms that animal sacrifices were carried out in the sanctuary, while the common ceramics, also bearing traces of fire, indicate that the meat was cooked and consumed during banquets in honour of divinity. The remains of one or more ritual meals were thrown into the well, the last ones probably when their function had ceased.”

Header Image Credit : Ministry of Culture

Sources : Ministry of Culture

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

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Archaeology

Labyrinthine structure discovered from the Minoan civilisation

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Archaeologists have discovered a monumental labyrinthine structure on the summit of Papoura Hill in Crete.

The discovery was made during the installation of a radar system in preparation for the construction of a new airport in the area.

According to experts, the structure dates from between 2000 to 1700 BC shortly before or at the start of the palaeopalatial Minoan period.

The Minoan civilisation was a Bronze Age culture that emerged on the island of Crete around 3100 BC. The culture is known for the monumental architecture and energetic art, and is often regarded as the first civilisation in Europe.

Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

The chronology of the Minoans is characterised into three distinct phases – Early Minoan (EM), Middle Minoan (MM), and Late Minoan (LM).

The palaeopalatial structure is part of the MMI – II grouping in the Middle Minoan, a period in which the first palaces were built and saw the development of the Minoan writing systems, Cretan hieroglyphic and Linear A.

The structure comprises of 8 concentric stone rings that converge on a central circular building. The entire diameter of the complex measures 48 metres and covers an area of approximately 1800 square metres.

Within the central structure are four designated zones in which radial walls intersect vertically and form a labyrinthine structure. Zones A and B appear to be have the main concentration of human activity, evidenced by the presence of large amounts of animals bones.

According to the experts, this residential area likely had a truncated cone or vaulted appearance and is the first monument of this type excavated in Crete. It can perhaps be paralleled with the elliptical MM building of the Chamezi Archaeological Site, as well as with the so-called circular proto-Hellenic cyclopean building of Tiryns.

The Minister of Culture, said: “This is a unique and highly significant find. Solutions are in place to ensure the completion of the archaeological research and the protection of the monument.”

Header Image Credit : Greek Ministry of Culture

Sources : Greek Ministry of Culture

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

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