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Ceremonial offering found at Mexican pyramid

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 15th, 2011
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Archaeologists in Mexico say they have found a ceremonial offering at the Pyramid of the Sun that may have been used nearly 2,000 years ago to consecrate the structure before its construction.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As reported in the Mexico's National Anthropology and History Institute, the offering consisted of pieces of obsidian, animal remains and three human figures made of a jade-like material. One of them resembles a mask delicately carved from a single piece.

One of the objects may be the offering placed during the first 50 years of our era, to consecrate the beginning of the construction of the greatest monument of Teotihuacan.

The tallest of the group of pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun helps comprise the massive, ancient city of Teotihuacan, north of Mexico City.

One of the archaeologists involved in the project, Enrique Perez Cortes said that judging by the depth at which the offering was located, and "we know that it was deposited as part of a consecration ceremony for the construction of the Pyramid of the Sun, probably at the beginning, more than 1,900 years ago."

Using the 116-meters long tunnel excavated in the 1930's decade by archaeologist Eduardo Noguera, the Pyramid of the Sun Project excavated 59 stratigraphic wells and three short tunnels to reach the mother-rock level and verify the presence of burials and offerings.

"We knew that if Teotihuacan people would have placed something inside the monument it would have been done at the tepetate level, so we made a probing well at the end of the tunnel and a short conduct to reach the center of the pyramid, since Noguera tunnel was carved approximately 6 meters to the west of the center of the monument," Perez Cortes says.

Among the explorations, architectural structures constructed before the Pyramid of the Sun, as well as seven human burials, some of them infants who were buried before the construction of the building.

The mask was discovered inside the constructive filling of the tunnel, "so we know it was deposited as part of a consecration ceremony of the structure, probably at the beginning of its construction more than 1900 years ago," Perez Cortes, researcher at Zacatecas INAH Center says.

Objects that integrate the offering "were elaborated with different materials and techniques; a considerable amount of obsidian pieces outstand, such as projectile heads, small knives, an anthropomorphic eccentric artifact and three anthropomorphic figures adorned with shell and pyrite eyes, also accompanied by projectile heads."

The anthropomorphic mask carved out in one piece, with eyes inlayed in pyrite and shell is the only greenstone mask discovered until now in the ritual context of Teotihuacan, Perez Cortes says.

The mask is different to other Teotihuacan masks because it presents smaller dimensions and has volume. It is likely that it was a portrait. A seashell was found next to the sculpture.

The offering also contained 11 Tlaloc vessels, most of them fragmented, and placed in the center of it. Other objects deposited include three pyrite discs, being the one with 45 centimeters diameter mounted on a slate slab the greatest recovered until now in Teotihuacan.

A substantial amount of animal skeletons was found. The skull of a feline was placed to the northeast, a canine to the south, and an eagle covered with volcanic rock, to the southeast. An analysis revealed that he bird was fed before the sacrifice with two rabbits. This kind of fauna is similar to the one found at offerings of the Pyramid of Moon.

"Nevertheless, objects found would be indicating that the Pyramid of the Sun, which covers an approximate area of 5.6 hectares, was possibly offered to a rain deity, an early version of Tlaloc, during the first 50 years of the Common Era.

"Until now, we can only offer a general interpretation of the findings, although it is evident that some of them present the same distribution pattern already observed at the Pyramid of the Moon burials," the specialists concluded.

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