Herodotus Returns

Ancient Mesoamerican Rubber Industry
June 22, 2010, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Mayan

Short piece in NY Times today about a study done on what appears to have been a developed and diversified rubber industry in ancient Mesoamerica. As always, love these stories that make us realize how little things have changed.

The Mesoamericans were robust users of rubber, according to historical and archaeological records. With it they made sandals, rubber bands and also balls, which they used to play a ceremonial game in stone-walled courts.

Each of these items need different qualities in the rubber of which they are made. A ball requires elasticity for bounciness, a rubber band requires strength, and a sandal requires wear and resistance.

A new reports that the Mesoamericans, which include the Aztec and the Maya, knew how to make different kinds of rubber, mixing latex from rubber trees with juice squeezed from morning glory vines in different proportions…

The earliest records indicate that Mesoamericans were using rubber by 1600 B.C. Thousands of years later, in 1839, Charles Goodyear discovered vulcanization, the chemical process used to produce rubber today.

Here’s the Times article. And a link to the cited study


Ancient Maya used marine fossils in funerary ritual
June 15, 2010, 6:09 am
Filed under: Mayan | Tags: , ,

Fantastic news story about the Maya. A three year multidisciplinary project – archaeology and geology – has studied the use of marine fossils in funerary contexts. The headlines say, ‘Mayans knew about prehistory.’ Which is a bit of an exaggeration. But, that’s not the point. The point is that they based their myths about the watery underworld and the fact that the world was born from a primordial ocean on empirical evidence. I love when we find hard-science explanations for the ineffable and irrational.

For Palenque inhabitants, marine fossils were the convincing proof of the land being covered by the sea long time ago, and parting from this fact they created their idea of the origin of the world, declared archaeologist Martha Cuevas, responsible, with geologist Jesus Alvarado, of research conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) and the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

More on the marine fossils.

Skeleton discovered beneath Mayan temple
January 12, 2010, 8:06 am
Filed under: Mayan, Skeletons | Tags: ,

A 1,300-year-old skeleton, along with jadeite and ceramic ornaments has been discovered beneath the Templo de las Pinturas (Temple of the Paintings) at the Mayan site of Bonampak.

The unknown character’s rests could correspond to a war captive such as those represented in La Batalla mural, or a relative of Chaan Muan II, who ruled Bonampak from 776 to 792 of the Common Era.

The burial has been dated towards the end of 8th century, during the government of Chaan Muan II, identified as the last ruler of Bonampak. He ordered the creation of the Temple of the Paintings, integrated by 3 rooms completely decorated with paintings over the throne, walls and vaults….

Inside were found osseous rests of a man with the skull missing: only jawbone was located. At his feet, 2 polychrome dishes were placed, and next to the place of the skull, a perforated alabaster vase was found. According to preliminary studies conducted by physical anthropologist Javier Montes, this man would have been 1.70 meters high and between 35 and 42 years old at the time of death.

Regarding the identity of the buried person, Tovalin specified that none of the objects of the offering have hieroglyphs that provide information, but archaeological material has allowed formulation of 2 hypothesis: The first one indicates he might have been a war captive sacrificed as an offering, which supported by the absence of skull, and the perforated alabaster associated to the knife. The second hypothesis points out to a close relative of Chaan Muan II…

More on the Mayan skeleton discovery here.