Skip to comments.New Digs Decoding Mexico's "Pyramids Of Fire"
Posted on 10/25/2005 11:14:52 AM PDT by blam
New Digs Decoding Mexico's "Pyramids of Fire"
for National Geographic News
October 21, 2005
On TV: Watch National Geographic Explorer: Pyramids of Fire, Sunday, October 23 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel.
Using picks, shovels, and high-tech forensic sleuthing, scientists are beginning to cobble together the grisly ancient history and fiery demise of Teotihuacán, the first major metropolis of the Americas.
The size of Shakespeare's London, Teotihuacán was built by an unknown people almost 2,000 years ago. The site sits about 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of present-day Mexico City. Temples, palaces, and some of the largest pyramids on Earth line its ancient main street.
Scientists believe Teotihuacán was the hub of trade and commerce in Mesoamerica until the city's civilization collapsed around A.D. 650. When the Aztecs stumbled upon the metropolis centuries later, they dubbed it the "City of the Gods," because they believed it was where the Gods met to create the present universe and sun.
Saburo Sugiyama, an archaeologist at Japan's Aichi Prefectural University, says recent excavations and analysis put a mortal face on Teotihuacán's mythological builders. The research is also providing clues to the city's final days.
"We are renewing the early history of Teotihuacán," he said.
One researcher investigating the site is Michael Spence, an anthropologist at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. He says a flurry of research activity at Teotihuacán since the 1980s is allowing scientists to understand the city's history. But "we still have a lot more science to work out," he added.
Tunneling for a Tomb
Sugiyama has concentrated his efforts at Teotihuacán's Pyramid of the Moon. The archaeologist has tunneled deep into the heart of the structure to search for the ruler thought to have ordered the pyramid's construction.
"We've not found the ruler's tomb yet, but we really feel we are very close to these people, the history, of who made this great pyramid," he said.
Sugiyama has made some intriguing finds, including dozens of beheaded people with bound hands. The bodies suggest bloody sacrificial rituals ripe with symbolism of military power, he said.
Excavations also reveal that the pyramid was constructed in seven stages, each stage an enlargement of the last. The work started in A.D. 100 and ended around A.D. 400. Amid several sections, Sugiyama has uncovered the remains of sacrificed victims.
Analyses by Spence of the University of Western Ontario suggest the sacrificed victims came from outside Teotihuacán, possibly as captives brought back from distant territories or battles.
The clues come from oxygen isotopes in bones, which act as geological markers. "They tell you where a person was at a particular time," he said.
Climate and altitude are among factors that affect the isotopes. The isotopes found in remains of pyramid victims differ from those unearthed in city homes.
Spence has also found evidence that the health of Teotihuacán's population declined in the city's final century. Residents' teeth have tell-tale lines that form in childhood during episodes of severe stress, such as malnutrition or infection.
"Basically growth stops as the body concentrates on survival and repair," he said. "Then as the stress passes, the growth continues again. But there's a line left in the tooth that represents the stress episode."
Because teeth only grow during childhood, scientists can put a general age to when the stress happened. These signatures of bodily stress remain in adult teeth.
"We have shown that in the last century of the city there is a growing problem of some sort. We get more and more indications showing up in adult teeth," he said.
The largest unanswered questions about Teotihuacán concern its demise. Why, for example, was the city largely abandoned around A.D. 650?
The recent excavations are revealing new bits of information that help piece together an answer.
"We don't know exactly what happened at the final stage, but we know certainly the city was destroyed by man, not by natural disaster," Sugiyama said.
Researchers are uncertain whether insiders or outsiders caused the destruction, Sugiyama said, but they do know that the instrument was fire, particularly on Teotihuacán's monuments.
The archaeologist says an invading army could have set fires to the monuments as a signature of their conquest.
Spence, however, says the evidence suggests to him the fires were set during an internal revolt.
According to his theory, the deteriorating health of the city's poor was likely exacerbated by a drought or a disruption to the food supply. This spurred a revolution against the ruling elite and their symbols of powertemples, pyramids, and palaces.
"The destruction seems to have skipped the vast majority of the city and focused on the elite and punished the elite. That suggests a revolt to me," he said.
Oh, yah, right! Like the Egyptian, Cambodian, and Mexican pyramids were all, like, built at the same time -- "by coincidence!" When will scientists acknowledge the influence of the Gao'uld?
"Scientist and tenured university professor Robert M. Schoch -- one of the world's preeminent geologists in recasting the date of the Great Sphinx -- believes otherwise. In this dramatic and meticulously reasoned book, Schoch argues that ancient cultures traveled great distances by sea. Indeed, he maintains that primeval sailors traveled from the eastern continent, primarily Southeast Asia (Sundaland), and spread the idea of pyramids across the Earth, involving the human species in a far greater degree of contact and exchange than experts have previously thought possible."
More than likely they just skipped across the border to take jobs that the American (natives) were too lazy to do.
Somebody had to pick all the corn, right?
World wide pyramid building requires no aliens or world travelers spreading their influence. Using the knowledge and building materials available the only large structure buildable by these ancient cultures was a pyramid by default.It took the development of the arch and the flying buttress before impressive size buildings could be built in any other form.
I'll second that.
I watched my two-year-old build pyramids with blocks.
When you've got a bunch of blocks and want to build something, what gravity'll let you build looks like a pyramid.
I wonder if the Goa'uld have been talking to my daughter?
Please FREEPMAIL me if you want on or off the
"Gods, Graves, Glyphs" PING list or GGG weekly digest
-- Archaeology/Anthropology/Ancient Cultures/Artifacts/Antiquities, etc.
Gods, Graves, Glyphs (alpha order)
My how some things don't change. For some reason this reminds me of what happened to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.
Pyramid building is stacking stones, not rocket science...but a 3 sided pyramid is stronger and easier to build...yet the ancient societies built only 4 sided pyramids...an oddity.
Actually as anyone who have played with blocks or legos as a child before knows that it is actually easier to build a 4 sided pyramid that looks balanced on all sides (sides match each other in basic look) than to build a three side pyramid that looks balanced on all sides.
There was a group that came from Wales 600 years before Columbus and settled in the Mississippi river areas.
They may have visited this area too and brought sickness to the natives.
The Colmbia Encyclopedia:
" MADOC OR MADOG (Madoc ap Owain Gwynedd) fl. 1170?, quassi-historical Welsh prince. According to Welsh legend, Madoc, said to be a son of Owain Gwynedd, discovered America 300 years before Columbus. Witnesses' accounts of finding supposedly Welsh-speaking Native Americans have served to keep alive the story, which is otherwise unsupported by evidence. He is the subject of Robert Southey's Madoc."
"MADOC (MADOC AP OWAIN GWYNEDD) was purported Welsh prince who, some believe, discovered America in 1170, over three hundred years before Christopher Columbus's voyages in 1492.
"His father, King Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd had at least 13 children from his two wives, and, it is said, several more born out of wedlock, among them Madoc and his brother Riryd. They were living at a time when Wales was born by strife and civil war.
"Upon his father's death in 1170, as usual fighting broke out among the possible successors, Madoc, disheartened, set sail to explore the western wea, found what is described as a distant and abundant land, and returned to Wales to recruit settlers; he then sailed west a second time for good. Madoc's landing place has been suggested by some theories to be Mobile Bay in what is now Alabama in the United States.
"There is some speculation that these early Welsh settlers had later been absorbed by American Natives, and that members of the Mandan Tribe, strikingly different in culture, language and appearance, might be descendants of Madoc and his fellow voyagers.
" Possibly the first written account of Madoc's story is found in a history of Wales published in 1584 by David Powell (1552?-1598?).
"Another account comes from John Dee in 1577. Dee claimed that King Arthur had won a vast empire in the North Atlantic and that the voyages of Madoc had confirmed the title of the Welsh to those territories. By the age of Elizabeth I of England, Dee asserted, they were under the sovereignty of the queen as successor to the Welsh princes. Basically Dee was making the assertion as a priority claim on North America for Great Britain over those of other nations.
"Recent research by Alan Wilson, Baram Blackett and Jim Michael suggests an even earlier date (and a different person) behind the myth. Using radiocarbon dating and DNA profiling methods on artifacts and human remains found in the US Midwest and in Wales, they claim to have found strong indications that the Khumric (Welsh) Prince Madog Morfran ap Meurig ("the cormorant"), brother of King Arthur II, left Wales in the aftermath brought by heavy destruction due to debris falling from a comet (562 CE), and arrived in North America during the 6th century and set up colonies.
"Several local guest houses and pubs are called Prince Madoc in his memory. However, according to other sources, the towns of Porthmadoc (Porthmadog, Port Madoc) and Tremadoc, county Gwynedd, Wales, are named after the North Welsh industrialist and Member of Parliament, William Alexander Maddock (1773-1828). The Prince Madog, the University of Wales' new research vessel, set sail on 2001-07-26 on her maiden vgoyage.
" Madoc - A Mystery is a long, multi-layered poem by Paul Muldoon (which won him the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize), exploring the Madoc legend, mostly through association with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey, who (in 1794) had played with the idea of going to America to set up an "ideal state."
"Madoc" by Robert Southy, 1805 London
"Did the Welch Discovery Ameria During the 6th Century?"
"Ancient Mysteries: Welsh prince Madoc in america Discovery Row"
Leading experts on King Arthur, say the south Walian prince Madoc Morfran sailed in 562 AD and made the discovery.
"Georgia's Fort Mount and Prince Madoc of Wales"
"Where Can I Find Information on Prince Madoc and the Discovery of America?"
"Madoc: Were the Welsh the first European Americans?"
"Prince Madoc and the White Indians"
"Was America Discovered in 1170 by Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd of Wales?"
"The Brandenburg [KY] Stone and Prince Madoc"
Click on Welsh Origins on the left column
Missed it. Seldom watch TV because most of it rots your brain. Will have to look for reruns.
More than likely they just skipped across the border to take jobs that the American (natives) were too lazy to do.
I came across this while researching my family last name.
Archaeologists pretty generally agree the Olmecs were the foundational society for other Mesoamerican cultures including Teotihuacan and the Maya. There are definite proofs of Mayan contact with Teotihuacan. Contacts from Mesoamerica to places further south in Peru, etc. seem a given to me but I don't have any links.
Someone brought up the Roman arch. It's hard to know all the construction techniques of the Olmecs because they built mostly out of wood which hasn't survived. The Maya used the corbel-vaulted arch instead of a keystone arch, which allowed them to build solid-roofed buildings and burial chambers. Some scholars speculate there was nearly continuous evolution of the Olmec into the Mayan culture. There's still a whole lot of diggin' left to do down there.
The description leaves something to the imagination. How, for example, did they support the top level while they built the larger levels below?
How, for example, did they support the top level while they built the larger levels below?
Hah! You simply ASSUME it was a right-side-up pyramid. (Good catch!)
Just visualize it as a very thick coat of paint each time. (And, they began painting at the bottom.)
They built the new ones on top of the old ones, like Russian nesting dolls, leaving the old ones intact.
"La Venta was inhabited by people of the Olmec Culture from around 800 BC to about 400 BC after which the site seems to have been abandoned."
A pic of the largest of the Caral "pyramids" -- looks more like the oppida of the Celts (adapted, natural hillocks):
The angles are easier to get right on a four-sided pyamid, both on the pyramid as a whole and on the uniform building-blocks you'll need.
I was posting from memory. La Venta was Intermediate Olmec and new radiocarbon data push the date back about 200 years to 1,000 B.C. ("The Olmec World, Ritual and Rulership," Page 12.
Something I read this year said they were thinking even further back, 1400BC. That early date starts to conflict with the Shang Chinese theory though.
The Initial Olmec Period is shown as 1,200-900 B.C. with its capital at San Lorenzo, which experienced cultural collapse around 900. There were "outrigger" settlements at places like La Venta, Laguna de los Cerros and maybe Tres Zapotes at that time. The same researchers say La Venta began to flourish around 1,000 B.C. Some believe its' influence continued to as late as 400 or 300.
What they call the Terminal Olmec and Epi-Olmec period ran from about 600 B.C. to A.D. 1. They say: "True Olmec culture drew to a close by 300 B.C., but a derived, epigonal culture survived north of the Tuxtla Mountains at Tres Zapotes...Ironically, although Tres Zapotes was the first Olmec site known, the nature of its Olmec occupation remains unresolved."
By reading several authors with varying points of view, it seems clear to me that what is called "Olmec" is subject to a lot of interpretation. Much evidence has either been destroyed or is yet undiscovered. My impression is that the archaeology to date has been pretty haphazard, probably due to economics. But the wet climate has also taken a big toll because much Olmec art and architecture were made of now-rotted wood. Usable stone was scarce in the La Venta region.
Olmec Indians: 1200BC- 600ADMany early scholars were reluctant to believe that a society as sophisticated as the Olmec could have developed in the tropical habitat of the Gulf coast, and some hypothesized that the Olmec had originally migrated from elsewhere... radiocarbon dates inform us that La Venta and San Lorenzo were inhabited as early as 1700 B.C., by peoples who were the direct ancestors to the Gulf coast. They were corn farmers who supplemented their diets with fishing and hunting. Linguists suggest that they spoke a language related to the Mixe and Zoque languages of today... At La Venta we can see that after 900 B.C. such platform mounds were arranged around large plaza areas and include a new type of architecture, a tall pyramid mound. An important feature at Olmec centers was their buried network of stone "drain" lines -- long U-shaped rectangular blocks of basalt laid end to end and covered with capstones. The new San Lorenzo research suggests those systems were actually aqueducts used to provide drinking water to the different areas of the settlement. Some of the aqueduct stones, such as San Lorenzo Monument 52, were also monuments, indicating that the aqueduct system had a sacred character as well.
CrystalinksThe Olmec and the ShangLast year, in a book entitled Origin of the Olmec Civilization, Professor Mike Xu, a Chinese who teaches in the foreign languages department at the University of Central Oklahoma, proposed a hypothesis which aroused a storm of controversy in archeological circles. In Xu's view, the first complex culture in Mesoamerica may have come into existence with the help of a group of Chinese who fled across the seas as refugees at the end of the Shang dynasty. The Olmec civilization arose around 1200 BC, which coincides with the time when King Wu of Zhou attacked and defeated King Zhou, the last Shang ruler, bringing his dynasty to a close.
by Claire Liu
tr. by Robert Taylor
the second link (at least) is dead, but here's a facsimile:
from this story:
some glyphs in common:
Statues found in Olmec sites include all three of the racial groups.
Afrocentrist Dr Clyde Winters has a unique view of the Olmecs: Nubians And Olmecs
"...The destruction seems to have skipped the vast majority of the city and focused on the elite and punished the elite. That suggests a revolt to me," he said.
The more things change the more they stay the same...
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