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Friday, September 21, 2012

1,000 Years Old Funerary Chamber Discovered in Michoacan


Photo: DMC INAH. H. Montaño.

The discovery of a funerary chamber of more than a 1,000 years old, in the Archaeological Zone of Tingambato Michoacan, with an unidentified character’s burial, accompanied by 19,000 green stone beads, shells and human bones, is one of the most outstanding results of a special archaeological investigation and conservation project by INAH in five different pre Hispanic sites in this zone.

According to the archaeologists of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH-Conaculta), the architectural complexity of the mortuary chamber and the burial’s wealth (which belong to the Classic period (AD 200-900) indicate that the remains belong to a high ranking character from the ancient metropolis of Tingambato.

The cultural particulars of the burial haven’t been identified yet, but it’s inferred that the chamber matches the funerary traditions of the West, such as shaft tombs and the tombs of El Opeño, although these we built during the Pre Classic period (300 through 200 BC) and continuing through the Classic period (400 through 600 AD). Archaeologist Melchor Cruz, coordinator of the conservation and investigation works of Tingambato, reported that the characteristics that have dominated in Tomb II and the wealth of the burial indicate that Tingambato must have had a major importance in the pre Hispanic culture of this region, which until now “could have been a governing center of the Classic Mesoamerican period, in the central region of what today is Michoacan”.

The funerary space is composed of a sandstone ceiling, these stones were thoroughly worked to make narrow and long shapes, one on top of the other, glued together with mud, and arranged counter clockwise; the walls are covered with a stucco made of vegetable fibers. This sepulcher is added to the one discovered in 1979, Tomb I of Tingambato, by archaeologist Roman Piña Chan. Melchor Cruz said that the quantity of shell beads that were found in the chamber convey possible relation to the ancient settlers of Tingambato with other towns in the coast. Also, it shows that this city could have been a possible strategic point in a commercial route to Cuenca de Patzcuaro.

“The burial’s arrangement was a complete paraphernalia: we found hundreds of beads carved in rectangular and square shapes, snail shells of about two through eight millimeters (0.07 and 0.31 inches) tall; some of those materials were probably used for necklaces and covered the human skeleton up to the thorax and the arms; underneath the individual’s remains we found a layer of sandstone placed on the floor of the funerary chamber.”

It was in July 2011, through the Michoacan Special Project, that after three decades, they renewed the explorations of Tingambato, parallel to the major maintenance work of ancient buildings. The discovery was registered while the grass was being trimmed and remains of pre Hispanic archaeology were being searched for. A worker put his foot in a hole made by a mole and his foot sank 10 centimeters (3.93 inches) until it stopped on hard ground. To verify what this was, archaeologist Melchor Cruz introduced his hand in the hole and touched a piece of sandstone, he then thought this might be a tomb. This is the second tomb that is discovered in this site.

The specialist said that this tomb was different than the mortuary chamber found in 1979 since this one has a more complex structure in the chamber walls, the buttresses of the ceiling and the stucco cover.

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