Archaeologists find 1000-year-old skeletons twenty kilometers away from Chichen Itza

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Archaeologists find 1000-year-old skeletons twenty kilometers away from Chichen Itza
Archaeologists have found 28 archaeological structures of different dimensions. Photo: J. Osorio, F. Perez and C. Hernandez/INAH.

MEXICO CITY.- Twenty kilometers (12.43 miles) from the Archaeological zone of Chichen Itza in Yucatan, in the Mayan site of Xtojil, archaeologists from the National Institute of History and Anthropology (INAH – Conaculta) recovered ten burials, the majority of which were placed inside a cista [casket] more than a thousand years ago, possibly between 600 and 800 AD, when the pre Hispanic city had not yet been turned into the governing center of the peninsula’s north.

These remains , along others that have been found (through the last few years) in the region, have allowed specialists to establish that more than 1,200 years ago there was an important population scattered in nearby settlements, usually around cenotes [water filled sink holes in Yucatan], which would after develop Chichen Itza as the capital that ruled the area.

Under the coordination of the investigators Jose Osorio Leon and Francisco Perez Ruiz of the INAH Center in Yucatan, and the collaboration of archaeologists Mariza Carrillo and Christian Hernandez, these excavations in Xtojil are part of an archaeological rescue that has taken place since the extension of the highway that connects the Yucatecan populations of Libre Union and Yaxcaba.

In said section, which is composed of about 18 kilometers, they have found 28 archaeological structures of different dimensions –almost all of them have collapsed–, which go from simple foundations over natural terrain to more elaborate housing spaces; among these, there is even a pyramid structures from 6 to 12 meters (19.69 to 39.37 feet) high.

Archaeologist Jose Osorio Leon said that the 22nd Structure, where they discovered the ten burials, was partially affected in the 50’s, when they first started building the highway, however, they found the north and south walls very defined, as well as the foundation of an apse-like floor.

Archaeologist Jose Osorio Leon also detailed that from the ten burials, seven belong to individuals that were placed spread out in cistas, which in average measure up to 1.80 meters (5.91 feet) long and 60 centimeters (23.62 inches) wide.

Along the materials deposited in the cistas, they registered almost 30 ceramic pieces: plates, earthenware bowls, pots, pans and cups. In average, each burial was accompanied by three of these objects; also, archaeologists found obsidian razors, jade beads and shell earrings, indicators of the existence of commerce in other Mesoamerican regions.

With the exception of seated burials –which are still in the process of being examined–, the rest of the skeletons were shown to be badly preserved and up to this point they cannot determine the individual’s (who were placed in cistas) gender. However, they have observed that the majority of the skeletons belong to adults and they don’t seem to have been deformed in any way.

INAH’s investigator (Jose Osorio Leon) said that the funerary context of Xtojil cannot be compared to a cemetery, at least not in the occidental conception of the term, “this was used as a housing structure, which had a prolonged occupation, at least from 600 to 800 AD, so the family and it’s descendants were buried in the same space.”

Nearby settlements of Chichen Itza
Although ancient sites such as Xtojil were established in the peak of Chichen Itza, between 900 and 1200 AD, they had been occupied since earlier centuries (the Late Classic period, 600 to 800 AD). This is known because they have certain characteristics, such as ceramic objects and architectonic sites, from this epoch.
Investigator Jose Osorio indicated that from the structures located along the highway Libre Union-Yaxcaba, they could only intervene in the sections that run along the highway, so that many can be observed by motorists, drivers and passers-by, as well as the people in nearby communities, who can now appreciate the archaeological wealth of the area.

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January 17, 2013

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