Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clarification on the Term "Incensario"

I just realized that some of my readers might not have know what I was referring to in my previous post when I wrote the term Palenque "incensario".  The image above is an example of an incensario that was found in the terraces of the Temple of the Cross. In reality, these large ceramic artifacts are believed to be the stands that went on top of the incensario (Spanish word for censor).  The censors and their associated stands were used by ancient Palencanos to burn incense for the veneration of their 3 major gods.
Above is an image of a North American totum pole.  The man standing beside the pole is unidentified in the book from which I scanned this photo (Nabokov and Easton 1989).  The reason that I include a picture of a totum pole here is because Miguel Angel Fernandez, an archaeologist who excavated at Palenque in the 1940's was one of the first to notice the resemblance of the incensarios to North American totum poles.  According to Alfonso Morales, one of the more recent archaeologist who has worked at Palenque, the earliest term used to describe the "porta-incensarios" was "cilindro".

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bird's Eye View from El Mirador Hill

Using ArcScene, I was able to create another model of the Palenque site and this is a view of the site from El Mirador hill.  On top of the hill, you can see a crude model of an ancient structure. David Stuart (2006:92) has interpreted the glyphs that refer to this mountain as "the descending Quetzal Big Mountain".  It definitely gives us a "bird's eye view", doesn't it?

One of my most important tasks in developing a GIS Palenque is to catalog and geocode the incensarios and their pictures. Above is a screen shot of my use of Excel and Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) to try to match pictures to each artifact.  Having a unique catalog number is a major key in my research, so I must not only keep track of the old artifact number, but create unique new ones, since the old ones often have duplicated numbers that were assigned from various excavation projects at the site.  To my knowledge, there is no centralized database of all the excavations that have been done at this site.  These pictures are from Martha Cuevas' dissertation about the incensarios.

My next task is to create links of all those pictures to each of the little dots on the map that represent the incensarios.  In this way, you can use the "lighting cursor" to click on each dot and a picture of that specific incensario will appear in a pop-up window.

Another one of my research tasks is to comb through the old records and written narratives to try to reconstruct the location of the tombs and caches that were not properly documented. Some of the first archaeological discoveries at Palenque were done before archaeology actually became a science and before the age of portable cameras.  Therefore, early discoveries were not properly documented, however some early explorers wrote down what they found. Above is map that I created to try to determine the location of "a series of sealed tombs" that Edward Thompson discovered in the late 19th century.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What a Mess

One of the most important things that I must do in order to move forward with my dissertation research is to establish artifact typologies and classifications. I have spent the last two weeks working on these classifications and I think that I have finally made some progress. Above is a photo of only a few of the lists and categories that I have created, deleted and edited.

This painful and confusing process has helped me decide upon what feature datasets and feature classes I should create in ArcGIS and what corresponding Excel spreadsheets that I should formulate so that I can link the spreadsheets into the map. Above is a screenshot of ArcCatalog where you can see some of my categories. By entering artifact numbers into the appropriate feature class category and then placing that same artifact number in the Excel spreadsheet containing data about that artifact, I will be able to link the map with the data in a simple manner that even novice GIS users can replicate. One of my research goals is to try to figure out how to encourage Mesoamerican archaeologists to use GIS applications and I think that this linking method will help.