Archaeologists have partially deciphered the mysterious message of the Zapotecs


In Mexico, archaeologists from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) identified glyphs discovered in 2018 in the Atzompa archaeological zone. This 15-meter bas-relief decoration turned out to be the longest text of the Zapotec civilization ever found in their region of residence in the Oaxaca Valley.

According to the INAH website, the amazing slab was discovered during the 2018 field season by members of the Atzompa Monumental Collaborative Archaeological Project, led by archaeologist Nelly Robles Garcia. The artifact is made of limestone and decorated with stucco. Researchers have been studying architectural elements for several years and have now come to the conclusion that this bas-relief is the longest example of the writing of the Zapotecs, an ancient civilization that neighbored the Maya people.

According to experts, the text was created in the late classical period (600-900 AD). It was partially deciphered. Thus, the inscription points to the important relationship that the Zapotecs established with the region of the Mixtecs, another ancient people of Mesoamerica. The text contains elements of iconography characteristic of both Zapotec and Mixtec. In particular, it contains a mention of the year of the Mixtec lizard (Chila), some figures and symbols known to scientists, as well as an image of a deity in the form of a quetzal serpent.

“Overall, the glyphs are allusions to power in the city, to supernatural protection, and to a timeless time,” says Robles Garcia. “Due to the arrangement of the symbols, we know that this was a message related to the function of power and strength that could be seen, walking along the road between the main palace and the ceremonial square”.

Scientists also believe that later the bas-relief could be used “for the purpose of demystifying spaces” – the rooms of a large complex, which for some reason the Zapotecs left, after partially destroying it. At the same time, they clearly performed some kind of ritual – offerings consisting of large vessels were previously unearthed in abandoned rooms.

However, originally a 15-meter slab with the longest Zapotec text probably adorned the royal residence, which was located in the capital of this civilization, the city of Monte Alban. It is believed that the heyday of this city fell on 650-850 years of our era.

The study also showed that the bas-relief was at least twice as long and probably reached 30 meters. Only half of this artifact has survived to our time. The fact that the text indicated the strength of power is also evidenced by a number of deciphered elements. Thus, experts identified a series of fragments of images that were symbolic for the Zapotec and related to aspects of power. We are talking about figurines of monkeys and jaguars.

In addition, the image of the quincunx was identified – a magical symbol that indicates the four sides of the world and the center of the universe. The Zapotecs believed that the world on Earth was built in the likeness of the cosmic world, and this symbol was one of the expressions of this belief.

Planet Today

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