A tomb containing the skulls of 12 individuals and sealed with human bones has been unearthed in Colima, Mexico, archaeologists have announced. Ceramic figurines with ornamental headdresses were also discovered, along with two ceramic pots. The mass grave has been dated to around the fourth century, which makes it pre-Columbian in origin.
The Daily Mail reported this week that archaeologists have excavated an ancient tomb that just might shed some light on the peoples of western Mexico prior to the coming of Columbus and the conquistadors, a time that saw massive and widespread destruction of the indigenous populations’ culture. The tomb predates Columbus by a millennium and contains the bones and skulls of a dozen individuals. There appears to have been no effort made toward ritualized placement, the remains seemingly piled atop each other in a haphazard fashion. Interestingly, all of the skulls showed signs of deformation.
The tomb was discovered at a Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Colima city center undergoing remodelling, according to archaeologists with the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). And since the tomb had been sealed (with a combination of human bones, stones, and grinding artifacts), the grave had remained untouched for nearly two millennia.
“This allowed us to look at the skeletal remains first-hand, to observe the lesions, deformations, and to gather more information to understand their way of life,” the researchers said. “There may be more pits, since the entire valley of Colima was inhabited form the start of the Capacha era (1500 BC) right up until the Spanish arrived (1500 AD).”
Along with the human remains were four ceramic artifacts, all ceramic. Two were figurines, a male and a female with elaborate headdresses. Both were discovered face-down in the grave, prompting scientists to believe that they were ceremonial offerings.
The male figurine is 39 centimeters tall (15 inches) and 14 centimeters wide (5.5 inches). The headdress has a horn protruding from it and the figure seems to be holding an axe. Researchers say it could have been fashioned into the likeness of a shaman.
The second figurine found is of a woman with a wide body, triangular head, and a hooked nose. Her dimensions are somewhat smaller than the male figurine, standing as she does at 32 centimeters tall (12.5 inches) and 14 centimeters wide (5.5 inches).
She is adorned with a band-style headdress and is holding a pot.
The other artifacts, as noted, were ceramic pots.
“The presence of these pieces in the altar offers a glimpse into the views of the people that lived in the valley of Colima at the time,” said Rafael Platas Ruiz of the INAH Colima Center. “The sculptures and their attributes served as offerings to protect the deceased, as we can see from the male sculpture representing a shaman. The other objects were requirements needed to reach the underworld.”
The artifacts appear to be from the Comala period, which extended from 0-500 CE. The tomb itself is a rare find, according to the researchers, because it has not been looted or disturbed like so many other ancient sites.
The Colima find comes just weeks after scientists announced the carbon dating of ancient Mayan ruins at the ancient Mayan Royal Palace of Ceibal, an archaeological site located in northern Guatemala’s Peten Department. According to the Inquisitr, after testing 154 samples, it was determined that instead of there being a massive collapse of Mayan civilization in the ninth century (a mysterious situation where the ancient civilization seemed to nearly vanish), there had actually been two collapses. Researchers found that the collapses followed similar patterns, where the first collapse, which was a bit smaller in scope, came in waves of instability followed by a short recovery prior to the major collapse.
The Classic and Pre-Classic Periods of the Maya would have been contemporaneous with the Comala Period and its half-century arc, but it is unclear how much interaction there would have been between the two cultures or if the Mayans had dominated the region.
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