Thursday, December 18, 2008

Caches of the Temple of the Cross

You may remember the above map as a smaller portion of a map that I posted in an earlier entry (it was annotated by Linda Schele) when I was discussing archaeologists that have excavated at Palenque. The map does not display those made by Miguel Angel Fernandez in the early 1940s where he found several caches in the Temple of the Cross and Sun.

Temple of the Cross

Temple of the Sun

The underground caching of objects by the ancient Maya people was a frequent ritual behavior and is evidenced in the archaeological record throughout the Maya Area, particularly within sacred temples. These caches often take the form of buried and covered pots that contain a variety of objects including things such as human bones, charred flowers, figurines and obsidian lances.

Photo Credit: Archaeologia Mexicana and Marco Antonio Pacheco/Raices

The pot on the left above was found in the Temple of the Cross by the Fernandez in 1941. When there are multiple caches in one building, the configuration of how they are laid out can have ritual or symbolic meaning. For instance, many are found in the shape of a cross or in the shape of a quincunx (one in each corner of the building and then one in the middle).

But the grouped cache excavated by Fernandez shown in the diagram above was of a very strange configuration that he postulated was in the shape of the big and little dipper (he also thought that it could be a coincidence). The layout does not quite fit these two constellations and the ancient Maya would surely have made it more precise, if that was their intention. What do you think it might represent or is this just a random "building ensoulment".

Here is a picture of some of the holes in the floor of the building. It was hard to take this photo, since I had to try to fit my camera through the screening device protecting the sanctuary. You may ask “how did Fernandez know where to dig for these caches?” He knew where they were because he could see the holes in the stucco of the floor where they had been patched up.