Naachtun, Guatemala. Hallazgo en la selva
abre nuevo capítulo de la historia Maya
Fuente: Copyright © 1996-2005 Amazings.com, 13 de enero de 2006
Se ha descubierto el más antiguo retrato conocido de una mujer maya tallado en piedra. El hallazgo demuestra que las mujeres ostentaron posiciones de autoridad en épocas muy tempranas de la historia maya, como reinas o deidades.
El descubrimiento fue hecho por una arqueóloga de la Universidad de Calgary y su equipo internacional de investigadores en Guatemala, concretamente en el yacimiento arqueológico de Naachtun, una ciudad maya localizada a unos 90 kilómetros al norte, y a través de una densa selva, de la ciudad maya más famosa: Tikal. La cara de la mujer, tallada en un tipo de monumento de piedra denominado estela, y en un estilo artístico nunca antes visto, sugiere que las mujeres desempeñaron papeles significativos en la política maya más arcaica.
"He trabajado en la cultura maya durante mucho tiempo y nunca he visto algo como esto", declara la Dra. Kathryn Reese-Taylor, directora del proyecto Naachtun dirigido por la Universidad de Calgary. "Tenemos imágenes de reinas que gobernaron tanto individualmente como junto a sus maridos o hijos, representadas en estelas posteriores en la historia maya de principios del siglo VI dC. Pero esta estela es del todo única en su estilo, y data probablemente
del siglo IV dC".
La mujer podría ser una figura de la historia maya, pero los investigadores se encuentran tentados de creer que podría tratarse de una figura mítica. Las inscripciones jeroglíficas del período Clásico Tardío (600-900 dC) mencionan a deidades femeninas, pero ninguna ha sido descubierta en una estela. "Si ésta es una deidad, entonces es sumamente rara", afirma Reese-Taylor. "Cuando los textos jeroglíficos mencionan a las mujeres, normalmente sucede por ser la madre o la esposa de alguien".
La estela mide dos metros de alto, un metro de ancho y 50 centímetros de espesor. Fue enterrada por los mayas dentro de un antiguo edificio, después de que su ciudad fue atacada y las inscripciones en la estela borradas por las fuerzas invasoras. El entierro fue un acto reverencial con el objetivo de honrar a la personalidad cuya imagen se talló en el monumento. El entierro de un niño acompañó a la estela.
La Dra. Julia Guernsey, profesora de Historia del Arte Precolombino de la Universidad de Texas en Austin, dice que el género femenino de la figura retratada en la estela es indiscutiblemente significativo.
De hecho, si este personaje fue una mujer histórica, ello implica que su retrato precede en más de cien años a otras representaciones conocidas en estelas de mujeres poderosas de las Tierras Bajas Clásicas Mayas. También significa que existe la necesidad de reevaluar el papel y el estatus de las mujeres dentro de la dinámica política de la época clásica temprana de los mayas.
Otros codirectores del proyecto son el Lic. Guillermo Martín Rangel, de la Universidad de San Carlos, Guatemala; el Dr. Peter L. Mathews, de la Universidad de La Trobe, Australia; y la Dra. Debra Selsor Walker, de la Universidad Internacional de Florida.
Fuente: Copyright © 1996-2005 Amazings.com, 13 de enero de 2006
Jungle discovery opens new chapter in Maya history
© 2005 Naachtun Archaeological Project
Although presently considered a very remote place, during the Late Pre-Classic (400 BC - AD 150) and Classic Maya period (AD 150 - 900), Naachtun was very much in the thick of things. Naachtun lies on the northeastern edge of the Mirador Basin, a broad area approximately 40 km. in diameter, where the earliest development of complex society in the Maya area took place.
Many of the great cities in the Mirador Basin did not survive the end of the Preclassic period; Naachtun was one of the few, apparently, that did. This transition from the Late Preclassic to the Classic period equals in complexity the Maya "collapse", yet its causes and immediate aftermath remain elusive.
Because if its successful navigation through this transition period, Naachtun is the key to understanding the changes that took place during the Preclassic-to-Classic shift.
But Naachtun did more than merely survive these tumultuous events, apparently it thrived. The Early Classic period (AD 150-600) was one of exponential growth at Naachtun. Indeed, the size of the Classic period city, the grandeur of its temples and palaces, and the presence of over 26 carved stelae indicate that Naachtun grew to be the centre of a powerful kingdom.
The presence of an "Emblem Glyph", which includes the ancient name of the kingdom and the identification of it "Divine Lord", would provide direct evidence for this. However, lacking this important piece of information, Naachtun remains an anonymous participant in the political developments of the Classic period.
However, the actions of Naachtun's rulers must have been a significant factor in the political ploys of other Maya kings, as the ancient kingdom lay directly between Tikal and Calakmul, the two greatest cities in the ancient Maya world. Considered the two "superpowers" of the Classic Maya, Calakmul and Tikal formed large confederacies and fought major wars, both directly against each other and "by proxy".
Situated between these two formidable kingdoms, Naachtun held not only a strategic position, but also a vulnerable one in an environement of endemic warfare. The control of Naachtun must have been seen as a necessary prologue to any concerted attempt by the kings of Tikal and Calakmul to launch an attack against the other.
Yet, despite the incessant strife, Naachtun continued to thrive as the capital of a powerful city-state until its demise in circa 830.
Because of its strategic location and long history, Naachtun is one of the most important and least known sites in the Maya area. In order to shed light on this significant, yet enigmatic kingdom, the Naachtun Archaeological Project, a multi-year, multi-disciplinary program of research, was launched in 2002.
The Naachtun Archaeological Project merges archaeological investigations with environmental conservation and economic development in the tropical forest of northern Guatemala. Archaeological development of the Classic Maya site of Naachtun can contribute directly to the preservation of Naachtun-Dos Lagunas Biosphere as a pristine rainforest environment. In addition, the on-going research and development of Naachtun will provide a foundation for sustainable ecotourism in the area.
Specific research questions of the Naachtun Archaeological Project include:
The initial season of investigations at Naachtun revealed that the civic center was founded between 100 BC and AD 150, however, its period of greatest growth appears to have been between AD 150 and 300, the initial stages of the Early Classic period. During this period, most of Group A was constructed, as well as a large 15 m tall structure (La Perdida) situated between Group A and C. In addition, Structures I and V in Group C underwent large scale modifications during this period. Finally, the presence of looted tombs, stelae, and large elaborate buildings in Groups A and C point to the development of a successful, independent polity during this period.
Our second season of investigations focused on this early period of growth. We were specifically interested in addressing questions regarding the foundation of the city-state in this region and the role that warfare played in the Naachtun's fortunes during the Early Classic.
Protecting the Naachtun-Dos Lagunas Biosphere
The site of Naachtun lies at the heart of the largest continuous tropical forest canopy in Peten, Guatemala. Situated within the Naachtun-Dos Lagunas Biosphere, the ruins of Naachtun are located just one kilometer south of the Mexican border. The mature tropical canopy sheltering the site is pristine, having been uninhabited for nearly a millennium. The majestic trees that cover the ruins are also home to a myriad of vulnerable rainforest species. Many of these species are on the endangered list, such as the jaguar and Mantled Howler and spider monkeys. In Guatemala alone, 50 to 75 percent of the rainforest has been clear-cut or burned in the last 15 years. Those animals not killed outright are left with no natural habitat. Conservation of the cultural resources insures the continued preservation of large tracts of natural tropical forest habitat.
In the center of a swath of protected rainforest that stretches across the northern limits of Guatemala, the Naachtun-Dos Lagunas Biosphere is on the front lines of an effort to secure and stabilize existing forest for sustainable economic development through tourism. Tropical rainforest areas of the Peten, today, are under substantial pressure, both from local population growth and invaders coming in from Mexico. Naachtun, as the major archaeological site in this area, is pivotal to all strategic plans for conservation and development in the northern Peten. Therefore, the Naachtun Archaeological Project is working the Guatemalan government, NGOs, and local communities to conserve the natural and cultural resources in the region.
Mathews, Peter, Kathryn Reese-Taylor, Marcelo Zamora, and Alexander Parmington.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Peter Mathews, Marcelo Zamora Mejía, Debra Walker, Martin Rangel, Silvia Alvarado, Ernesto Arredondo, Shawn Morton, Alex Parmington, Roberta Parry, Baudilio Salazar, and Jeff Seibert.
Walker, Debra Selsor
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Marc Zender and Ernesto Arredondo.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Peter Mathews, Julia Guernsey, and Marlene Fritzler.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Martin Rangel, Debra Selsor Walker, David Stuart, Peter Mathews, Alejandra Alonso, Silvia Alvarado, Ernesto Arredondo, Chris Morehart, Shawn Morton, and Fernando Rochaix.
Walker, Debra Selsor, Kathryn Reese-Taylor, and Peter Mathews.
Mathews, Peter, Kathryn Reese-Taylor, Marcelo Zamora Mejía, and Alexander Parmington.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Peter Mathews, Marcelo Zamora Mejía, Silvia Alvarado, Ernesto Arredondo, Shawn Morton, Jason Parmington, Roberta Parry, Martin Rangel, Baudilio Salazar, and Jeff Seibert.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Peter Mathews, Ernesto Arredondo Leiva, and Marc Zender.
Reese-Taylor, Kathryn, Peter Mathews, Marc Zender, and Ernesto Arredondo Leiva.
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Breaking the Maya Code. Revised edition. (1999) Michael D. Coe. Thames and Hudson.
Code of Kings. (1999) Linda Schele and Peter Mathews. Scribner.
Popol Vuh. (1996) Dennis Tedlock. Touchstone.
Maya Cosmos. (1995) David Freidel and Linda Schele. Harper Paperbacks.
The Ancient Maya. Fifth edition. (1994) Robert Sharer. Stanford University Press.
Maya Civilization. (1993) T. Patrick Culbert. Smithsonian Institution Press.
Forst of Kings. (1992) Linda Schele and David Freidel. Harper Perennial.
Blood of Kings. Reprint edition. (1992) Linda Schele and Mary Miller. George Braziller.
Naachtun: A Lost City of the Maya
By Kathryn Reese-Taylor, Peter Mathews,
Marc Zender and Ernesto Arredondo Leiva
Excavations in the Guatemalan jungle have revealed the tantalising remains of a Mayan city, seemingly abandoned at the height of its powers. Kathryn Reese-Taylor takes up the search to discover the lost city of
An abandoned city
The Maya of the Classic period, which begins at approximately AD 250, lived in an area that now includes
'...control of the city must have been seen as a necessary prologue to any attempt by
The ancient city of
Despite its present-day isolation, however, Naachtun was very much in the thick of things during the Classic period (AD 250-900). The site lies about 44km (27 miles) south-south-east of Calakmul, and 65km (40 miles) north of Tikal - these being the two 'superpowers' of the Classic Maya world. Lying directly between two such powerful entities, Naachtun held not only a strategic position, but also a vulnerable one during the frequent wars of the time, and control of the city must have been seen as a necessary prologue to any attempt by
The dates recorded on the Naachtun monuments span a period from AD 504 to 762, suggesting that the city flourished for most of the Classic period. Yet because of its geographical position, Naachtun was tied either to
Naachtun's central position and fluctuating political affiliation can be deduced from the architectural diversity found at the site. Buildings in the
However, another building at Naachtun (Structure XXXIX on the map) is built in yet another style - constructed with cut-stone masonry that is characteristic of Río Bec architecture. This is a widespread architectural style that is found across the region to the north of Naachtun. This array of architectural influences, probably reflecting the site's shifting political affiliations and regional connections, makes Naachtun one of the most interesting of all Classic Maya sites for study.
History of investigations
Naachtun was rediscovered by the archaeologist Sylvanus Morley, of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, on
'They... realised that Nohoxna and Naachtun were in fact one and the same place.'
Morley named the large Maya city Naachtun because of the site's extreme inaccessibility (naach meaning 'far' and tun meaning 'stone', in Mayan). In fact Naachtun is still one of the most remote sites in the
The next western visitor to Naachtun was Cyrus Lundell, who reached the site on
In 1933, thinking that Lundell had discovered a new site, the Carnegie Institution of Washington sent an expedition into southern
Gathering the evidence
Marc Zender examines a building at Naachtun ©
In the mid 1970s, Eric von Euw, of the Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions project at
The most recent visit was made in July 2002 by archaeologists Kathryn Reese-Taylor and Marc Zender, of the
The size of Naachtun, the grandeur of its public architecture, and the presence of over 40 stelae, indicate that it was the centre of a very powerful kingdom during the Classic period. Yet the name of the kingdom, as recorded in hieroglyphic texts, remained a mystery until the mid 1990s, when the epigrapher Nikolai Grube discovered the ancient Mayan name of Naachtun.
'According to the emblem glyph, Naachtun's ancient name was 'Masuul'.'
In a fragmentary passage on Stela 1, he found an 'emblem glyph' (a hieroglyphic compound), which included the names of Classic period Mayan kingdoms. According to the emblem glyph, Naachtun's ancient name was 'Masuul'.
References to the Masuul kingdom are found not only in hieroglyphic inscriptions at Naachtun, but also on scattered monuments throughout
Traces of ritual
The earliest dated reference to the Masuul kingdom is found on Tikal Stela 10. Dating to 486, the passage states that the capital of the Masuul kingdom (ie Naachtun) was conquered by
The early hostilities between Naachtun and
'The final passage dates to 711, and describes the funerary rite of an important woman.'
However, during the late sixth and early seventh centuries,
In the late seventh and early eighth centuries, Naachtun's loyalties changed again.
A familial relationship with
Finally, Naachtun changed allegiances again during the later half of the eighth century. In the texts on Naachtun Stela B5, titles closely associated with Calakmul are used to describe an individual at Naachtun. The stela specifically names the individual as 'he of Calakmul' and states that he was responsible for the erection of the stela in 761.
'The city played the role of 'piggy in the middle' between two superpower neighbours.'
Late Classic existence was a precarious one politically, alternating in affiliation between Calakmul to the north and Tikal to the south - another indication that, throughout its history, the city played the role of 'piggy in the middle' between two superpower neighbours.
Finally, there is a particularly distinctive architectural feature at Naachtun that betrays the political turmoil of the Classic period. The map indicates that Structures VII-XII are surrounded by a wall, and in the 2002 reconnaissance of the site it was confirmed that this feature is indeed a wall. It was also evident that the wall was added some time after Structures VII-XII were built, and that it is reminiscent of defensive walls found at the sites of Dos Pilas and La Joyanca to the south.
The walls from each of these sites date from the very end of the Classic period and were constructed to try to protect a local population under imminent threat from outside attackers. However, there are key differences between these walls and the wall at Naachtun. At points the Naachtun wall is 4m (13ft) high, and it is well constructed with large cut blocks of limestone. This is notably different from the one at La Joyanca, which was only about half a metre (19in) high and served as a base for a wooden palisade. It also differs from the walls at Dos Pilas, which, although large, were not well constructed, and were made by removing the exterior stone facing of the surrounding buildings.
'Who were these people who settled 'betwixt and between' the two superpowers of the Classic Maya world?'
The Dos Pilas fortifications were erected in haste, while the defensive wall at Naachtun appears to have been carefully planned and assembled. This leads to the conclusion that the Dos Pilas and La Joyanca defensive walls were effective responses to the stresses of warfare at the end of the Classic period, while the sizeable and well-built defensive fortifications at Naachtun are an indication that the city had been living with this type of stress for centuries.
During the last decade, Naachtun has revealed many of its secrets. It is now known that the ancient city was the capital of a great kingdom called Massul. We also know that it was a crucial collaborator in the political manoeuvrings of both
Find out more / Books
The Maya by Michael Coe (Thames and Hudson, 1999)
The Lords of
How to Read Maya Hieroglyphics by John Montgomery (Hippocrene Books, 2001)
The Fall of the Ancient Maya: Solving the Mystery of the Mayan Collapse by David Webster (
About the author
Kathryn Reese-Taylor is an Associate Professor in the Department of Archaeology,