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Photo Reuters

Topic:Petroglyphs of ancient hunter-gathers

Archaeologists in Mexico have catalogued thousands of etchings carved into stones that they believe were made by hunter-gatherers 6,000 years ago.

The carvings, known as petroglyphs, mostly consist of wavy lines and concentric circles, with some images representing deer tracks.

Some 8,000 images were found at the site in Narigua in northern Mexico.

Experts say the etchings may be part of hunter-gatherer initiation rites, or representations of stars.

The National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says it is now preparing to allow tourists into the site, some 100km (60 miles) west of the city of Monterrey.

INAH archaeologist Gerardo Rivas said there was evidence of hunter-gatherer tribes having lived in the area.

He said many of their settlements were temporary, but evidence of cooking implements and stoves still remained.

He said the petroglyphs may reveal clues as to the level of sophistication of the tribes, and the kinds of tools they were able to manufacture.
Original article:
BBC.co.uk</a
July 9, 2013

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Cave paintings in Mexico: Carvings uncovered in Burgos

Archaeologists in Mexico have found 4,926 well-preserved cave paintings in the north-eastern region of Burgos.

The images in red, yellow, black and white depict humans, animals and insects, as well as skyscapes and abstract scenes.

The paintings were found in 11 different sites – but the walls of one cave were covered with 1,550 scenes.

The area in which they were found was previously thought not to have been inhabited by ancient cultures.

The paintings suggest that at least three groups of hunter-gatherers dwelled in the San Carlos mountain range.

Experts have not yet been able to date the paintings, but hope to chemically analyse their paint to find out their approximate age.

‘No objects’
“We have not found any ancient objects linked to the context, and because the paintings are on ravine walls and in the rainy season the sediments are washed away, all we have is gravel,” said archaeologist Gustavo Ramirez, from the Mexican National Institute of Anthropology and History (Inah).

In one of the caves, the experts found depictions of the atlatl, a pre-Hispanic hunting weapon that had not yet been seen in other paintings in the Tamaulipas state.

The paintings are being considered an important find because they document the presence of pre-Hispanic peoples in a region where “before it was said that nothing was there”, Mr Ramirez said.

Another archaeologist involved in the Inah study, Martha Garcia Sanchez, said that very little is known about the cultures who dwelled in Tamaulipas.

“These groups escaped the Spanish rule for 200 years because they fled to the Sierra de San Carlos where they had water, plants and animals to feed themselves,” she said.

The findings were presented during the second meeting of Historic Archaeology, in Mexico’s National History Museum.
Original article:
BBC.co.uk
May 22, 2013

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Photo Reuters
Archaeologists found more than 1,500 paintings in one cave of the Burgos region

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Ancient Maya pyramids tower above the forest at Tikal, Guatemala, during a rain storm

Topic: Mayan farming

(Phys.org) —BYU researchers have dug up new evidence from an ancient Maya city that may help solve the mystery of just how many people lived in the civilization.

Using soil chemistry, combined with advanced remote sensing and satellite imagery, the researchers have pinpointed for the first time where Maya farmers in Tikal, Guatemala, carried out some of their most significant crop production.

The location of the prime farmland indicates that the Maya population at Tikal may have been much different than previously thought.

“Our soil analysis is finding that Mayas did not grow maize heavily on the hillsides, but rather along the borders of the low-lying wetlands called bajos,” said BYU soil scientist Richard Terry. “Knowing where they grew corn gives us a clearer picture about their civilization unknown until now.”

The finding in Guatemala comes at the same time separate researchers have discovered a lost Maya civilization in the Mexican jungle.

Terry and his team analyzed the carbon isotope signatures of 185 soil cores taken in and around Tikal. Combined with data from radar and satellite imagery, the carbon signatures allowed researchers to create a model that maps the areas where the Maya planted – and didn’t plant – corn.
One of the most unexpected findings was the lack of maize residue in the fertile upland soils, said coauthor David Webster, a professor of anthropology at Penn State. Archeologists have long believed the Maya used the hillsides primarily for corn (maize) agriculture, much like modern inhabitants of the region.

Relying primarily on the deep soil zones near the wetlands (called bajos) for maize production, as the research indicates, has significant bearing on the amount of people that could be supported. Experts currently estimate Tikal’s population was between 30,000 and 62,000 inhabitants.

Next spring Terry and his team will pursue additional research in Tikal to determine if the bajos themselves were used for maize agriculture.

“We’ve discovered an important piece of data that was missing in the equation to determine the size and scope of the Maya population,” said BYU grad student Chris Balzotti, lead author of the study published in the International Journal of Remote Sensing. “Archeologists will be able to take our model and apply it to what they know to determine better population estimates.”

Terry has led environmental science students to ancient Maya ruins annually for the past 15 years. Six years ago, research led by Terry used soil chemical residues to detect a large marketplace in a Maya city on the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. The findings were the first strong evidence that the ancient Maya had a market economy similar to societies today.

The latest round of research also suggests new information about how the ancient Maya managed their rainforests.

While some experts believe the forests were cleared for farming, and others believe they were left and crops were grown beneath the canopy, the model shows it was a combination of both: Portions of the forest were cleared while larger portions of the forest were left standing.

“Dirt analysis may not be as sexy as digging up a jade mask from a former Maya king, but now we can answer more questions about the regular people that made up this ancient civilization,” Balzotti said.

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Ancient Maya pyramid at Tikal, Guatemala.

Original article:
Phys.org
June 26, 2013

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Topic: Cave find, ancient campfire

Mexican Archaeologists Discover Items From Mezcala, Olmec Cultures in Abandoned Cave

Mexican archaeologists have found traces of the Mezcala and Olmec cultures, as well as human remains, in a cave in the southern state of Guerrero, indicating that the site was inhabited at different times and served as a funerary center, the National Anthropology and History Institute, or INAH, said.

Specialists found a Mezcala-type figure and campfire remnants dating to 700 A.D. in a cave in Cocula, a city in Guerrero, the INAH said in a statement.

The figure is complete and important because of the limited number of finds of this type, INAH-Guerrero Center archaeologist Miguel Perez Negrete said.

The Mezcala culture is one of the civilizations that developed along the Balsas River and is mainly identified on the basis of its architectural style and anthropomorphic figures.

The discovery was made during construction of a road in Oxtotenco, a hamlet outside the community of Atzcala, Perez Negrete said.

“The most surprising thing was that when we started digging, we also found Olmec ceramics estimaed to date to the year 1000 before our era, as well as pre-Olmec (1200 B.C.), that is, it is more than 3,000 years old,” the archaeologist said.

The human remains consist of fragments and have not been dated yet, but they could be Olmec because of the ceramics associated with them, Perez Negrete said.

Original article:
hispanically speaking
June 5, 2013

Mezcala culture:

The Mezcala culture (sometimes referred to as the Balsas culture) is the name given to a Mesoamerican culture that was based in the Guerrero state of southwestern Mexico,[1] in the upper Balsas River region.[2] The culture is poorly understood but is believed to have developed during the Middle and Late Preclassic periods of Mesoamerican chronology,[1] between 700 and 200 BC.[2] The culture continued into the Classic period (c.250-650 AD) when it coexisted with the great metropolis of Teotihuacan.[3]
Archaeologists have studied the culture through limited controlled excavations, the examination of looted artifacts, and the study of Mezcala sculptures found as dedicatory offerings at the Aztec complex of Tenochtitlan.
Wikipedia

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Mezcala Mask

Olmec Culture

The Olmec were the first major civilization in Mexico. They lived in the tropical lowlands of south-central Mexico, in the modern-day states of Veracruz and Tabasco.
The Olmec flourished during Mesoamerica’s Formative period, dating roughly from as early as 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE. Pre-Olmec cultures had flourished in the area since about 2500 BCE, but by 1600–1500 BCE Early Olmec culture had emerged centered around the San Lorenzo Tenochtitlán site near the coast in southeast Veracruz.[1] They were the first Mesoamerican civilization and laid many of the foundations for the civilizations that followed.[2] Among other “firsts”, the Olmec appeared to practice ritual bloodletting and played the Mesoamerican ballgame, hallmarks of nearly all subsequent Mesoamerican societies.
The most familiar aspect of the Olmecs is their artwork, particularly the aptly named “colossal heads”.[3] The Olmec civilization was first defined through artifacts which collectors purchased on the pre-Columbian art market in the late 19th century and early 20th century. Olmec artworks are considered among ancient America’s most striking.[4]

wikipedia

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Olmec Head

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Ridged and furrowed land, believed to be a maize field.

Topic: Mayan agriculture

The research on the well-preserved plant remains found in a Maya village that was destroyed by a volcano’s fury will be presented at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The University of Cincinnati’s mastery of ancient Maya mysteries continues with new research from professor of biological sciences David Lentz.

UC faculty have been involved in multiple research projects concerning ancient Maya culture for more than a decade. This latest Maya study from Lentz focuses on Cerén, a farming village that was smothered under several meters of volcanic ash in the late sixth century.

Lentz will present his research, “The Lost World of the Zapotitan Valley: Cerén and its Paleoecological Context,” at the 78th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, held April 3-7 in Honolulu. More than 3,000 scientists from around the world attend the event to learn about research covering a broad range of topics and time periods.

THE SCIENTIFIC GIFTS OF VOLCANIC CATACLYSM

Cerén, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Joya de Cerén, was discovered in El Salvador in the late 1970s when a governmental construction project unearthed what turned out to be ancient ceramic pottery and other clay structures. The initial archaeological excavation was directed by Payson Sheets, a faculty member at the University of Colorado and a friend of Lentz.

Cerén is sometimes called “the Pompeii of Central America,” and much like that doomed ancient Roman city, the wreckage of Cerén was remarkably well preserved by its volcanic burial shroud. So that bad news for the Cerén villagers became good news for archaeologists centuries later.

“What this meant for me, is this site had all these plant remains lying on the ground,” Lentz says. “Not only do we find these plant remains well preserved, but we find them where the people left them more than a thousand years ago, and that is really extraordinary.”

Lentz specializes in paleoethnobotany and oftentimes in his work – including at other Maya sites – he’s left to interpret complex meaning from splinters of charred wood and hard nut fragments. The Mayas’ tropical environment, which isn’t conducive to preserving plant remains, doesn’t make things any easier.

But the situation was different at Cerén. The village’s sudden and complete ruin sealed it under layers of preservative ash. So Lentz’s research there is still challenging but in an unfamiliar way.

“It was tricky because we kept encountering things we’d never encountered before at a Maya site,” Lentz says. “They were just invisible because of the lack of preservation.”

GARDENS, CROPS AND OTHER SURPRISES

- They found tremendous quantities of a root crop (malanga, a relative of taro) that previously had not been associated with Maya agriculture. They found another “invisible” crop of manioc alongside the more anticipated fields of maize, and they found grasses no longer in existence on the modern-day El Salvador landscape.

- They made what is thought to be the first discovery of a Maya kitchen, complete with intensively planted household garden. “We could tell what was planted around the houses,” Lentz says. “This is fabulous because people have long debated how the Maya did all this. Now we have a real example.”

- They found a household with more than 70 ceramic pots, many used to store beans, peppers and other plant matter. Having that many vessels in one home was an unusual discovery for what is thought to be a small, farming village. Lentz likened it to having four or five sets of China in a typical American home.

- They found large plots of neatly rowed land, evidence of ridge and furrow agriculture. Lentz also posits that the people of Cerén surrounded their homes with orchard trees. These discoveries seemingly debunk the common theory that the Maya employed a slash-and-burn agriculture method.

- They found a raised, paved pathway called a “sacbe,” which was used by the Maya for ceremonial and commercial purposes. Lentz plans additional research on the sacbe to see what other significant discoveries could be made by following the path.

LEARNING FROM ANCIENT LANDSCAPES

From these new discoveries come many lessons, a lot of them ecological. Lentz has studied how the Mayas effectively implemented systems of agriculture and arboriculture. He is intrigued by what made these methods successful, considering the Maya population was much denser than what exists on the modern landscape.

His findings at Cerén give him new pieces to plug into the Maya puzzle. Furthermore, they help us understand how humankind affects the natural world.

“Cerén is regarded internationally as one of the treasures of the world,” Lentz says. “What’s been found there gives you a real idea of what things were like in the past and how humans have modified things. I think what we’re learning there is revolutionizing our concept of the ancient past in Mesoamerica.”

Additional contributors to Lentz’s research paper were students Christine Hoffer (The Ohio State University) and Angela Hood (University of Cincinnati). Funding for the research was provided by multiple National Science Foundation grants.
See more UC research to be presented at the 2013 Society for American Archaeology conference.

Original article:
uc.edu
By Tom Robinette, April 2, 2013

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 26,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Well here’s  a hats off to everyone who followed my blog this past year! Haza!

I hope to bringmany more interesting and informative posts to you in 2013, a some news posted from the web and more original material of my own.

Happy new year!

Joanna Linsley-Poe

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Topic: Mayan Temple
I feel I have a duty to post the following article even though it doesn’t pertain to food. It does however say something about the mentality of those people who have no reverence for the past and are just as likely to trash an ancient temple as their living room. Stay home I say,if you cannot respect the temple, the workmanship and the antiquity of the past. The supposed end of the world ( i.e.the end of the Mayan calendar ), is not an excuse to destroy the Mayan heritage any more than it is to damage any monument, no matter the culture or religion of its people.

Reported in the Fiji Times
Dec 25, 2012

GUATEMALA CITY – Tourists flocking to Guatemala for “end of the world” parties have damaged an ancient stone temple at Tikal, the largest archaeological site and urban centre of the Mayan civilisation.

“Sadly, many tourists climbed Temple II and caused damage,” said Osvaldo Gomez, a technical adviser at the site, which is located some 550 kilometres north of Guatemala City.

“We are fine with the celebration, but (the tourists) should be more aware because this is a (UNESCO) World Heritage Site,” he told local media. Gomez did not specify what was done, although he did say it was forbidden to climb the stairs at the site and indicated that the damage was irreparable.

Temple II, which is about 38 metres high and faces the central Tikal plaza, is one of the site’s best known structures.

Friday marked the end of an era that lasted 5200 years, according to the Mayan “Long Count” calendar. Some believed the date also marked the end of the world as foretold by Mayan hieroglyphs.

More than 7000 people visited Tikal on Friday to see native Mayan priests hold a colourful ceremony and light fires as the sun emerged to mark the new era UNESCO declared Tikal a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Original article:
fijitimes.com

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Topic Mayan cookery

Rounded clay balls found in Mexico reveal an ancient Mayan cooking technique.

Planning a last supper party on December 21? To celebrate the Mayan way, you might need several clay balls.

That’s one way the Maya cooked their food, according to U.S. archaeologists who have unearthed dozens of rounded clay pieces from a site in Mexico.

Conducted with the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (INAH) and Millsaps College’s financial support, the excavation of a kitchen at Escalera al Cielo in Yucatán revealed 77 complete balls and 912 smaller fragments.

About 1-2 inches in diameter and more than 1,000 years old, the clay balls contained microscopic pieces of maize, beans, squash and other root crops.

The finding supports the hypothesis that the balls “were involved in kitchen activities related to food processing,” archaeologists Stephanie Simms, Francesco Berna, of Boston University, MA, and George Bey of Millsaps College, MS, wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

“This is the first time fired clay balls have been studied in the Maya area and, to my knowledge, no one has documented the use of clay balls in modern Maya cooking,” Simms told Discovery News.

Located in the Puuc Maya hills of Yucatán, Escalera al Cielo was an elite residential settlement that was rapidly abandoned sometime near the end of the Terminal Classic period (800-950 A.D.), as shown by ceramic vessels, stone tools, personal adornments, and other materil assembled on the floors.

“We know much about the nature of ancient Maya kings and queens, but this type of study helps see how the Maya worked in the kitchen, what kinds of tools they used and the ways they might have prepared their cuisine,” Bey, the project co-director along with archaeologist Tomás Gallareta Negrón and anthropologist William Ringle, told Discovery News.

To better understand the meaning of the fired clay balls, the researchers used a suite of microscopic techniques and experimental replication. The tests revealed that the balls were produced from local clay in a standardized set of sizes.

“They were fired at a fairly low temperature and were used repeatedly in the kitchen,” Bey said.

Most likely, the fired clay balls were either placed directly into pots of food to cook or heat it, or used in pit (pib in Mayan) oven cooking installations.

“This cooking method involves digging a shallow pit, lining it with stones or clay balls, building a fire on top and waiting until it is reduced to embers,” Simms said.

The process continued by placing whole roots, squash fruits or packets of food wrapped in maize on the hot stones. Everything was then covered with earth and leaves to seal in heat. Cooking took from one hour to up to a day or more.

The experimental tests showed “how the ancient Puuc Maya manipulated materials available to them to produce objects that potentially represent a staple of every Puuc Maya kitchen inventory, maybe even representing a local cooking technique and cuisine,” Simms said.

Fired clay balls have been described from a variety of archaeological contexts worldwide, particularly in the Lower Mississippi River Basin and southeastern United States, and in areas of southwest Asia where clay is abundant but stone are not. Similar clay balls were also unearthed in the neolithic village of Catalhoyuk in Turkey, where they were found in hearths and interpreted as cooking or heating implements.

Charles Kolb, an anthropologist, archaeologist and senior program officer in the Division of Preservation and Access at the National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington DC, agrees that Bey and colleagues “have provided logical inferences of artifact use.”

“The fired clay balls show multiple heating episodes rather than just one firing. A single firing might suggest the use as these balls as ‘sling stones’ or offensive weaponry, but their size would connote other uses,” Kolb told Discovery News.

“The multiple firings of these balls points to uses in culinary activities with these fired clay balls substituting for stones,” he added.

Original article:
Photo: About 1-2 inches in diameter and more than 1,000 years old, these clay balls contained microscopic pieces of maize, beans and squash.
By Rossella Lorenzi – Archaeology
news.discovery.com

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