2. Excavations at San Francisco Mazapan, Mexico
Authors: Juan Carlos Perez, Christina M. Elson
Background to Vaillant's Field Work
Dr. George Vaillant was a Curator in the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History (1927-41). In the early 1930s, Vaillant excavated near San Francisco Mazapan, a small town located just outside the ruins of the Classic Period city of Teotihuacan.
One of the largest cities of its time, Teotihuacan flourished from AD 150 to 750, and reached its peak between AD 450 and 650. During this time, Teotihuacan's influence was felt over much of Mesoamerica, including cities like Tikal located far away in the Maya lowlands of Guatemala. Teotihuacan ceased to be a powerful city around AD 750; however; after its political decline the city continued to be inhabited by thousands of people and during the Postclassic Period the site played an important role in Aztec mythology (Smith 1996:34-36).
Pyramid of the Sun
Vaillant's excavations were located in a field east of the Pyramid of the Sun and approximately 200 meters south of Xolalpan, a Classic Period residential compound excavated by the Swedish archaeologist Sigvald Linné.
Because the pottery Vaillant found was neither Teotihuacan nor Aztec, he suggested that it belonged to the time period in between the two cultures, which he called the "Mazapan" culture. Scholars now date the Mazapan Period to the Early Postclassic Period (AD 950 to 1150). Vaillant never published the results of his work, which is unfortunate because data from his excavations can shed new light on the Mazapan culture.
The American Museum of Natural History Collection
Location of burials and offerings
Burials X and XI: Effigy jar
• Burials X and XI were placed together in an extended (face up) position. They were located several meters away from the skulls and offerings. Six dishes, two bowls, and two jars, including an effigy jar, accompanied the burials.
• Skull 1 has several artifacts in the collection.
• Skull 2 was placed in a bowl (30 cm in diameter and 10 cm tall).
• Skull 3 was placed in a bowl (29.5 cm in diameter and 10 cm tall) and covered by fragments of another bowl (the largest fragment was 21 cm by 5 cm).
• Skull 4 was located south of Skull 3. The skull was placed inside a bowl (25.5 cm in diameter and 5 cm tall). Another bowl covered the skull.
Skull 5: Bowl with a sherd
• Skull 5 was located to the south of Skull 4. The skull was inside a bowl (35 cm diameter in and 10 cm tall). The bowl also contained a small dish and a green obsidian blade. The bowl was covered by large sherds (the largest sherd was 12 cm by 4.5 cm ).
• Skull 6 was located south of Skull 5. The Mexican Government retained the bowl holding the skull. The bowl held three shreds of another bowl, four green obsidian blades, and one small pottery figure of a bird.
• Skull 7 was located south of Skull 6. The skull was placed inside a bowl (30 cm in diameter and 9.5 cm tall). Two sherds in the bowl were not found in the museum's collection.
• Skull 8 was located south of Skull 7 and was associated with only one bowl.
Skull 9: Bowls
Offering A: Blades, bowls, jars, a stone scraper
• Skull 9 was located south of Skull 8. The bowl holding the skull (27 cm in diameter and 8 cm tall) was placed lip to lip with another bowl (28 cm in diameter and 9 cm tall). There were three obsidian blades inside the bowl holding the skull, but only one green blade was found in the museum's collection.
• Offering A contained five gray blades, six green blades, two bowls, two jars with covers (one not in the museum's collection), two small dishes, and one stone scraper. All the artifacts were inside a bowl that was covered by another bowl.
• Offering B was found west of Lot A. It contained two bowls, three small dishes, one charcoal chunk, and two jars with covers. The lot was inside one bowl and covered by the other bowl.
• Offering C was found west of Lot B. It contained a jar with a cover, a piece of fired clay, and a bowl (that is not in the collection). In this offering, the artifacts were placed under the bowl.
• Offering D was found northwest of Lot C. It contained two bowls, two small dishes, fragments of two other small dishes, a green obsidian blade, and another obsidian blade not in the museum's collection. The artifacts in this offering were stacked upside down on top of one another.
• Offering E was found north of Lot B. This lot contained only one small vessel, which had a diameter of 8 cm diameter and was 5.5 cm tall.
Offering F: Bowls, a dish, obsidian blades
• Offering F was found west of Lot C. It contained four bowls, one dish, one green obsidian blade, and another obsidian blade not in the museum's collection. All the artifacts were placed inside a bowl containing black ash. The offering was covered by the largest bowl, which was placed upside down over the others.
• Offering G appears to have consisted of three bowls. One bowl was right side up and two were placed lip to lip. The two bowls placed right side up contained obsidian blades and also one contained a piece of mica.
• Offering H was found east of Lot G. It contained two bowls and a green obsidian blade. One bowl was broken in half.
• Offering I was found east of Lot J. It contained two bowls placed rim to rim and a green obsidian blade.
• Offering J was found west of Lot I and east of Lot G. It contained two bowls, one placed upside down over the other, and a green obsidian blade.
• Offering K was found to the south of and centered between Lot H and Lot G. It contained three bowls, a jar sherd, and a piece of obsidian (not in the collection). Vaillant's field notes state that one bowl was face up and the other two bowls were placed face down over the bowl. This arrangement was covered by the olla, which was broken into pieces and stacked on top of the bowls.
• Offering L was found southeast of Lot I. It contained a fragmented bowl, a dish, and a green obsidian blade. The blade was inside a bowl, which was covered by the dish.
Offering M: Two bowls
• Offering M was found southeast of Lot L. It contained two bowls placed lip to lip. The bowl on top was the unpainted, orange bowl with three small solid supports seen in Figure 9. This kind of bowl is usually called a cajete (picture shown).
• Offering N was found southwest of Lot M. It contained two bowls placed lip to lip, an obsidian blade, a piece of red ochre, and a chunk of obsidian. The obsidian was not in the museum's collection.
• Offering O was found south of Lot M, and southeast of Lot N. It contained two bowls one placed face down over the other one.
• Offering P was found south of Lot J, and southwest of Lot L. It contained two bowls, one sherd, one disc, and one gray obsidian blade. The small objects were placed in one bowl and covered with the other bowl.
• Offering Q was found west of Lot G. It contained two bowls, one green blade, one gray blade and one sherd from an incense burner. The small objects were inside the two bowls placed lip to lip.
The burials and offerings at San Francisco Mazapan contain decorated and undecorated serving vessels in several different forms including plates, bowls, jars, and small dishes. Twelve of the seventeen offerings contained obsidian, three of the nine skulls placed in bowls contained obsidian, and no obsidian was listed with the complete skeletons. A preliminary analysis of the human remains by Dr. Kenneth Mowbray (Division of Anthropology, AMNH) suggests that all nine skulls buried in bowls are from adults (both males and females). Several skulls had artificial cranial deformation. Finally, the skulls probably were removed from the rest of the remains after the body had decomposed, suggesting that these features may be secondary burials.
Sigvald Linné's Mazapan Excavations
Teotihuacan and Aztec Burials
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