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24 julio 2012 2 24 /07 /julio /2012 17:11

 

Archaeological "gold mine" illuminates connection between king and sun god. 

Hace 1600 años, el Templo Maya del Sol nocturno era un faro de color rojo sangre visible a kilómetros de distancia y adornado con mascaras gigantes de los dioses Mayas como el Jaguar, el Tiburón o el Bebedor de sangre.

 

Perdido en la jungla de Guatemala, el templo por fin se muestra a los arqueólogos, revelando nuevas incógnitas sobre los reinos rivales de los Mayas.


Perdido en la jungla de Guatemala, el templo por fin se muestra a los arqueólogos, revelando nuevas incógnitas sobre los reinos rivales de los Mayas.

Descubren un nuevo templo Maya en Guatemala

 

A diferencia de los centralizados imperios Inca y Azteca, los Mayas constituían un modelo de ciudades estado dispersas por Guatemala, Belice y Yucatán. Dentro de estos lugares, algunos tenían mayor importancia que los otros.  

El Zotz, recientemente descubierto, era uno de esos reinos menores, pero ha resultado ser realmente impresionante a pesar de su menor tamaño o importancia.

En 2010, unos arqueólogos que trabajaban en una colina cercana a la ciudad ancestral, descubrieron una pirámide de 13 metros de alto llamada la Pirámide Diablo. En lo alto de esta, encontraron un palacio real y lo que parece la tumba del primer gobernante de la ciudad, que data de finales del siglo IV.

En ese mismo año, Stephen Houston, arqueólogo de la universidad de Brown y varios investigadores más encontraron el templo del Sol nocturno, enterrado tras la tumba real de la Pirámide del Diablo y olvidado por siglos de vegetación sobre el.

Los laterales del templo están decorados con marcaras de 1,5 metros de altura que representan al dios Sol atravesando el cielo durante un día.

Una de las mascaras tiene forma de tiburón, como el sol que viene del este por el caribe. El templo está dedicado a una deidad ancestral con los ojos bizcos que bebe sangre, y el final de la serie de mascaras está dedicada a los jaguares, que salen de la selva en el ocaso.

En la cultura Maya, el sol está estrechamente relacionado con las dinastías monárquicas, y según Houston, este templo está erigido para albergar la tumba de un rey que fundó una dinastía.

 

Una mina de oro de información

El estudioso de los Mayas Simón Martin, dijo que las mascaras del templo eran un hallazgo único y extremadamente valioso, pues podía ayudar a verificar numerosas teorías sobre el dios Sol.

 “Habíamos encontrado numerosas imágenes de este dios en diferentes lugares, pero nunca todas juntas como aquí” según ha citado Martin.

 “Ahora tenemos que unir las piezas del puzle, porque puede que a través del resultado podamos obtener una información de un valor impagable”.

Mirando más allá

 “Con el juego de luces que se da, puede llegar a ser extremadamente dramático” según confirmó Taube, de la UCR de California, que no está involucrado en el proyecto.

Es una pena que se haya perdido la pintura de las mascaras, pues los pigmentos rojos que marcaban la sangre debían de ser extremadamente impactantes cuando eran iluminados por los rayos del sol de ocaso.

A pesar de que pensemos que las ciudades estado Mayas eran totalmente independientes, hay numerosos indicios de que existían las jerarquías, y se cree que los reyes de El Zotz estaban bajo la influencia de Tikal.

A pesar del cuidado y el mimo que se perciben en la construcción del templo, se cree que fue abandonado en torno al siglo V por razones desconocidas.

La respuesta a esta incógnita puede ser desvelada una vez que se examine por completo el templo.

Archaeological "gold mine" illuminates connection between king and sun god.
"Dramatic" New Maya Temple Found, Covered With Giant Faces

 


Mayan temple

 

 

Archaeologist Edwin Roman posing in front of a bas-relief depicting the 'Night Sun' found under a pyramid at the Zotz archaeological site, in the Peten jungle, 550 km north of Guatemala City.

Credit: HO / Proyecto Arqueologico El Zotz / AF

 

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The Maya sun god as shark-man—one of his several guises on a newfound monument in Guatemala.

Photograph courtesy Edwin Román, Brown University

 

Ker Than

for National Geographic News

Published July 20, 2012

Some 1,600 years ago, the Temple of the Night Sun was a blood-red beacon visible for miles and adorned with giant masks of the Maya sun god as a shark, blood drinker, and jaguar.

 

Long since lost to the Guatemalan jungle, the temple is finally showing its faces to archaeologists, and revealing new clues about the rivalrous kingdoms of the Maya.

Unlike the relatively centralized Aztec and Inca empires, the Maya civilization—which spanned much of what are now GuatemalaBelize, and Mexico's Yucatán region (Maya map)—was a loose aggregation of city-states. (Read about the rise and fall of the Maya in National Geographic magazine.)

"This has been a growing awareness to us since the 1990s, when it became clear that a few kingdoms were more important than others," said Brown University archaeologist Stephen Houston, who announced the discovery of the new temple Thursday.

El Zotz, in what's now Guatemala, was one of the smaller kingdoms, but one apparently bent on making a big impression.

By 2010 archaeologists working on a hilltop near the ancient city center had discovered 45-foot-tall (13-meter-tall) Diablo Pyramid. Atop it they found a royal palace and a tomb, believed to hold the city's first ruler, who lived around A.D. 350 to 400.

Around the same time, Houston and a colleague spotted the first hints of the Temple of the Night Sun, behind the royal tomb on Diablo Pyramid. Only recently, though, have excavations uncovered the unprecedented artworks under centuries of overgrowth.

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Video: Archaeologist Stephen Houston on the Temple Find


 

 

Solar Power

The sides of the temple are decorated with 5-foot-tall (1.5-meter-tall) stucco masks showing the face of the sun god changing as he traverses the sky over the course of a day.

(Related: "Unprecedented Maya Mural Found, Contradicts 2012 'Doomsday' Myth.")

One mask is sharklike, likely a reference to the sun rising from the Caribbean in the east, Houston said.

The noonday sun is depicted as an ancient being with crossed eyes who drank blood, and a final series of masks resemble the local jaguars, which awake from their jungle slumbers at dusk.

In Maya culture the sun is closely associated with new beginnings and the sun god with kingship, Houston explained. So the presence of solar visages on a temple next to a royal tomb may signify that the person buried inside was the founder of a dynasty—El Zotz's first king.

It's an example of "how the sun itself would have been grafted onto the identity of kings and the dynasties that would follow them," he said in a press statement.

Maya archaeologist David Freidel added, "Houston's hypothesis is likely correct that the building was dedicated to the sun as a deity closely linked to rulership. The Diablo Pyramid will certainly advance our knowledge of Early Classic Maya religion and ritual practice."

Houston's team also found hints that the Maya, who added new layers to the temple over generations, regarded the building as a living being. For example, the noses and mouths of the masks in older, deeper layers of the temple were systematically disfigured.

"This is actually quite common in Maya culture," Houston told National Geographic News. "It's very hard to find any Mayan depiction of the king that doesn't have its eyes mutilated or its nose hacked ... but 'mutilation' is not the appropriate term to describe it. I see it as more of a deactivation.

"It's as if they're turning the masks off in preparation for replicating them in subsequent layers ... It's not an act of disrespect. It's quite the opposite."

(Also See "End of World in 2012? Maya 'Doomsday' Calendar Explained.")

"Gold Mine of Information"

Maya scholar Simon Martin said the masks on the newfound El Zotz temple are "completely unique" and valuable, because they could help verify theories about Maya portrayals of the sun god.

"We have images of the sun god at different stages ... but we've never found anything that puts it all together," said Martin, of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, who was not involved in the project.

"We've had to assemble [the sequence] from bits and pieces of information and just trust that we got it right. This could be an opportunity to see the whole thing stage by stage."

The temple is also wonderfully well preserved, Martin added, making it a "real gold mine of information."

"We've seen a few places where whole buildings have been preserved," he said. "But normally what happens is [the Maya] smashed up a building and then built on top of it, so when you dig into a building you don't find very much of their decoration."

By contrast, Maya workers at El Zotz went to great pains to preserve the original temple structure, going so far as padding it with earth and small rocks before building on top of it.

(Take a Maya quiz.)

Facing Out

Archaeologist Karl Taube points out the craftsmanship of the masks. "They're three-dimensional. The faces push out of the side of the facade. You don't really see that very often ... because if they project too much they fall off. But here they were able to pull it off.

"With the play of light on these things, the faces would have been extremely dramatic," said Taube, of the University of California, Riverside (UCR),who also was not involved in the project.

Project leader Houston added that the masks' color—crimson, according to paint traces—would have also helped them stand out. "With that bright red pigment, it would have had a particularly marked effect at dawn and at the setting of the sun," Houston said.

Blazing red and perched on high, the Temple of the Night Sun was meant "to see and to be seen," Houston said.

Importantly, it would have been noticeable from Tikal, a larger, older, and more powerful kingdom that El Zotz may or may not have been on friendly terms with.

"We tend to think of kings being completely autonomous, but for the Maya, a sacred king was often part of a hierarchy of kings," the Penn Museum's Martin said.

"So the people at El Zotz at times may have been heavily under the influence of Tikal, and when powers were weak at Tikal, they may have been completely independent or may have linked themselves with more powerful kings somewhere else."

"A Lot More Discoveries" to Come?

Despite the obvious care that was taken to construct and preserve the newfound temple, it wasn't used for long. Evidence at the site suggests the building was abandoned sometime in the fifth century, for reasons unknown.

"It's like they just dropped their tools and left" in the middle of once again expanding the temple, Houston said. "I think what you're looking at is the death of a dynasty."

The answer to this mystery and others could become evident as more of the Temple of the Night Sun is uncovered.

"Only 30 percent of this facade has been exposed," UCR's Taube said. "I think there're going to be a lot more discoveries and a broader understanding of what this building actually shows in the future."

More: See National Geographic pictures of Maya ruins and artifacts >>

 

 

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