Category Archives: NORTH AMERICA

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

Mexico earthquake reveals lost ancient temple inside the pyramid

The remains of the great pyramid of Teopanzolco have long offered visitors to the southern Mexican site unique insights into the structure’s inner workings while simultaneously conjuring visions of the intricate temples that once arose from its series of bases and platforms.

Today, remnants of twin temples—to the north, a blue one dedicated to the Aztec rain god Tláloc, and to the south, a red one dedicated to the Aztec sun god Huitzilopochtli—still top the pyramid’s central platform, joined by parallel staircases.

Although archaeologists have intermittently excavated the Teopanzolco site since 1921, it took a deadly 7.1 magnitude earthquake to unveil one of the pyramid’s oldest secrets: an ancient shrine buried about six-and-a-half feet below Tláloc’s main temple.

According to BBC News, scientists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) discovered the temple while scanning the pyramid for structural issues.

The earthquake, which struck central Mexico on September 19, 2017, caused “considerable rearrangement of the core of [the pyramid’s] structure,” INAH archaeologist Bárbara Konieczna said in a statement.

For local news outlet El Sol de Cuernavaca, Susana Paredes reports that some of the most serious damage occurred in the upper part of the pyramid, where the twin temples are located; the floors of both structures had sunk and bent, leaving them dangerously destabilized.

The discovery was made at the Teopanzolco pyramid in Cuernavaca

To begin recovery efforts, archaeologists created wells in the temple dedicated to Tláloc and a corridor separating the two temples.

During this work, the team unearthed a previously unknown structure, which featured a similar architectural style—double facade walls covered in elongated stones and stucco-encased slabs—to that of the existing Tláloc temple.

In the statement, Konieczna notes that the temple would have measured about 20 feet by 13 feet and was probably dedicated to Tláloc, just like the one located above it. It’s possible that a matching temple dedicated to Huitzilopochtli lies on the opposite side of the newly located one, buried by later civilizations’ architectural projects.

The humidity of the Morelos region had damaged the temple’s stucco walls, according to a press release, but archaeologists were able to save some of the remaining fragments.

Below the shrine’s stuccoed floors, they found a base of tezontle, a reddish volcanic rock widely used in Mexican construction, and a thin layer of charcoal. Within the structure, archaeologists also discovered shards of ceramic and an incense burner.

Paredes of El Sol de Cuernavaca notes that the temple likely dates to about 1150 to 1200 C.E. Comparatively, the main structure of the pyramid dates to between 1200 and 1521, indicating that later populations built over the older structures.

The Teopanzolco site originated with the Tlahuica civilization, which founded the city of Cuauhnahuac (today is known as Cuernavaca) around 1200, as G. William Hood chronicles for Viva Cuernavaca. During the 15th century, the Tlahuica people were conquered by the Aztecs, who, in turn, took over the construction of the Teopanzolco pyramids.

Following the 16th-century arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, the project was abandoned, leaving the site untouched until its 1910 rediscovery by Emiliano Zapata’s revolutionary forces.

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers

According to a research published at PLOS ONE on the 5th February 2020 by Wolfgang Stinnesbeck of the University of Heidelberg, the new skeleton discovered in the submerged caves of Tulum sheds light on the earliest settlers in Mexico.

9,900-year-old Mexican female skeleton distinct from other early Native American settlers
Underwater exploration of Chan Hol Cave, near Tulum, Mexico. Credit: Eugenio Acevez.

Humans have been living in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula since at least the Late Pleistocene (126,000-11,700 years ago).

We also discovered much of the earliest Mexican settlers from nine well-preserved human skeletons found in the submerged caves and sinkholes near Tulum in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Here, Stinnesbeck and colleagues describe a new, 30 percent-complete skeleton, ‘Chan Hol 3’, found in the Chan Hol underwater cave within the Tulum cave system.

The authors used a non-damaging dating method and took craniometric measurements, then compared her skull to 452 skulls from across North, Central, and South America as well as other skulls found in the Tulum caves.

The analysis showed Chan Hol 3 was likely a woman, approximately 30 years old at her time of death, and lived at least 9,900 years ago.

Her skull falls into a mesocephalic pattern (neither especially broad or narrow, with broad cheekbones and a flat forehead), like the three other skulls from the Tulum caves used for comparison; all Tulum cave skulls also had tooth caries, potentially indicating a higher-sugar diet.

This contrasts with most of the other known American crania in a similar age range, which tend to be long and narrow, and show worn teeth (suggesting hard foods in their diet) without cavities.

Though limited by the relative lack of archeological evidence for early settlers across the Americas, the authors suggest that these cranial patterns suggest the presence of at least two morphologically different human groups living separately in Mexico during this shift from the Pleistocene to the Holocene (our current epoch).

The authors add: “The Tulúm skeletons indicate that either more than one group of people reached the American continent first, or that there was enough time for a small group of early settlers who lived isolated on the Yucatán peninsula to develop a different skull morphology.

The early settlement history of America thus seems to be more complex and, moreover, to have occurred at an earlier time than previously assumed.”

Huge 300-Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Found Deep Inside An Underground Kentucky Cave

Huge 300-Million-Year-Old Shark Skull Found Deep Inside An Underground Kentucky Cave

In the walls of a Kentucky cave, a fossilized shark’s head was found around 300 million years ago.

Scientists suggest that it was part of a striatus of Saivodus, which existed during the Late Mississippian geological age between 340 million and 330 million years ago.

It shows the skull, the lower jaws, cartilage and several teeth of the creature. The team believes that the size of the animal is similar to our modern Great White Shark.

A massive, fossilized shark head dating back some 300 million years ago has been discovered in the walls of a Kentucky cave. Experts believe it belonged to a Saivodus striatus, which lived between 340 and 330 million years ago during the Late Mississippian geological period.

The ancient shark head was uncovered in Mammoth Cave National Park, located in Kentucky, which is Earth’s oldest known cave system, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

It was first spotted in a treasure trove of fossils by Mammoth Cave specialists Rick Olson and Rick Toomey, who sent images of their findings to Vincent Santucci, the senior paleontologist for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for help with identifying the fossils.

But it was paleontologist John-Paul Hodnett who made the exciting discovery.

‘One set of photos showed a number of shark teeth associated with large sections of fossilized cartilage, suggesting there might be a shark skeleton preserved in the cave,’ he told the Journal.

The head was well-preserved in the cave and the team was able to make out the shark’s skull, lower jaw, cartilage, and numerous teeth. Based on these features, Hodnett believes the shark was about the size of a modern-day great white.

The Mammoth Cave National Park holds a trove of ancient fossil – more than 100 shark species have been discovered so far.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’

A discovery such as this is very rare, as cartilage does not usually survive fossilization. However, shark teeth are commonly found, as they are made of bone and enamel, making them easy to preserve.

Hodnett said teeth and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls.

‘We’ve just scratched the surface,’ Hodnett said. ‘But already it’s showing that Mammoth Cave has a rich fossil shark record.’  

A separate exudation found teeth that they believed belonged to the largest prehistoric shark that lived over 2.5 million years ago.  The discovery was made by divers in an inland sinkhole in central Mexico supporting anthropologists’ theories that the city of Maderia was once under the sea.

Fifteen dental fossils were found in total with thirteen of them believed to belong to three different species of shark, including a megalodon that existed over 2.5 million years ago.

According to the researchers involved, an initial exam of the thirteen shark dental fossils and their size and shape revealed that they might have belonged to the prehistoric and extinct species of megalodon shark (Carcharocles megalodon), the mackerel shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) and the saw shark, the last two of which are not extinct.

Hodnett said teeth (pictured) and dorsal fins of other shark species are also exposed in the cave ceiling and walls
A discovery such as this is very rare, as cartilage does not usually survive fossilization. However, shark teeth are commonly found, as they are made of bone and enamel, making them easy to preserve.

The fossils belong to the period of Pleiocene, the epoch in the geologic timescale that extended from 5 million to 2.5 million years ago, and the Miocene, an earlier geological epoch which extended between 23 and 5 million years ago.

Reports state the Xoc cenote is the largest in the city of Merida with a diameter of 2,034 feet and 91 feet deep.

A Civil War-era ‘witch bottle’ may have been found on a Virginia highway, archaeologists say

A Civil War-era ‘witch bottle’ may have been found on a Virginia highway, archaeologists say

From the College of William & Mary archeologists discovered a remarkable piece of history.

At Redoubt 9, which is now known as exits 238 to 242 on I64 in York County, the team found a Jug of the Civil War era, which was thought to be a “witch bottle.” Witch bottles served as a kind of talisman to ward off evil spirits, the university says.

The excavation was carried out in association with Virginia Transportation Department in 2016 and was supervised by the former archeologist Chris Shepard of William & Mary Center for Archeological Research (WMCAR), who now works for VDOT.

Researchers at the College of William & Mary think a piece of Civil War-era glassware found at the site of an old fort in York County, Va., may have been a “witch bottle” used to ward off evil spirits.

Staff thought it looked like a bottle full of junk at first.

“It was this glass bottle full of nails, broken, but all there, near an old brick hearth,” said Joe Jones, director of WMCAR, told the college. “We thought it was unusual, but weren’t sure what it was.”

Jones said that the research center works frequently and closely with VDOT and noted that the standard arrangement is for their archaeological work to be scheduled well in advance of active roadwork. This particular dig took place before the planned interstate widening project.

William & Mary says Redoubt 9 was constructed by Confederates and occupied by Union troops after the Battle of Williamsburg in 1862.

Jones says the fortification was one of 14 mini-forts built along a line between the James and York Rivers to counter the threat of a Federal assault on Richmond via the Peninsula.

Jones explained that an afflicted person would bury the nail-filled bottle under or near their hearth with the idea that the heat from the hearth would energize the nails into breaking a witch’s spell.

Nearly 200 witch bottles have been documented in Great Britain, but less than a dozen have been found in the U.S, William & Mary says.

“It’s a good example of how a singular artifact can speak volumes,” Jones told W&M. “It’s really a time capsule representing the experience of Civil War troops, a window directly back into what these guys were going through occupying this fortification at this period in time.”

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

600-Year-Old Foundations Unearthed in Mexicapan

Archeologists in the Mexico City district of Azcapotzalco have discovered the base of the pre-Hispanic house and other building remnants of an ancient settlement.

In a declaration, the INAH confirmed that the finds in the historic center of the northern borough were part of the ancient altépetl, or city-state, of Mexicapan.

The city came into being when inhabitants of the Aztec or Mexica, capital of Tenochtitlán conquered the dominion of Azcapotzalco in 1428 and divided it into two autonomous settlements – Mexicapan and Tepanecapan.

The “domestic platform,” as INAH describes the foundations of the home, and the other structural remains are believed to have been part of a residential neighborhood within Mexicapan that was occupied by the city’s elite.

Measuring eight meters by six meters, the stone foundations of the pre-Hispanic house are among the largest ever found in Azcapotzalco, said INAH archaeologist Nancy Domínguez Rosas. The archaeological rescue team she heads also unearthed the remains of stone walls on the perimeter of the platform that measures between 50 and 70 centimeters.

The discovery is located in the historic center of Azcapotzalco.

The foundation is well preserved, Domínguez said, although the wall remains show signs of damage from more recent construction.

Archaeologists believe that the platform was built in two separate stages, the first of which corresponds to the late post-classic period between 1350 and 1519 AD. When the second phase of construction took place has not yet been determined.

Archaeologists found the platform while working alongside a municipal government team that was installing a tension fabric structure on Paseo de las Hormigas (Promenade of the Ants), which is part of the Azcapotzalco Park.

Domínguez said that 31 holes between one and two meters deep were dug for the slab foundations of the shade structure.

The structural remains of the Mexicapan neighborhood were discovered at a depth of 1.2 to two meters in front of the Azcapotzalco market, she said.

In addition to the domestic platform, archaeologists discovered the remains of other residential structures including one that measures 1.72 by 1.75 meters. All of the structures were made out of high-quality materials, leading archaeologists to conclude that they housed the elite and upper classes of Mexicapan society.

The archaeological rescue team has also discovered artifacts made out of both stone and bones.

Domínguez said the presence of the INAH team while the municipal employees are working in the area ensures that archaeological remains are not damaged, adding that archaeologists will continue to work to determine if there are any more pre-Hispanic structures in the area.

After they have been examined, the structures will be covered with geotextile, soil, and limestone to avoid their deterioration.

The discovery of such remains allows archaeologists “to recover information and contrast it with the information provided by historical sources,” Domínguez said, adding that the aim is to develop a greater understanding of “the way of life” of the residents of Mexicapan.

She also said that there is evidence that there were chinampas, or floating gardens, in the elite neighborhood and that human burials took place there.

The information . . . helps us to gradually reconstruct the puzzle of the urban configuration of Azcapotzalco in the pre-Hispanic era,” Domínguez said.