Copyright
Thomas William Francis Gann.

The Maya Indians of southern Yucatan and northern British Honduras online

. (page 8 of 15)
Online LibraryThomas William Francis GannThe Maya Indians of southern Yucatan and northern British Honduras → online text (page 8 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


guishable from the surrounding soil; they are all seemingly of much
more recent date than the other mounds, and are probably the work
of Maya Indian tribes who flourished long after the conquest.




• ~i ~r' ■» £1°



capping OF EARTH



/flTERNAT/^O LAYERS
OF A70RTAR A/VO
SMALL RUBBLE



BASE" OF- MOUND



Fig. 22.— Diagram of Mound No. 6.



Mound No. 6



Mound No. 6 was situated near the southwestern boundary of Santa
Rita. The mound was nearly circular, with flattened top, 25 yards in
diameter, and 10 feet high at its highest point. Toward the southern
side of the mound was unearthed a wall (fig. 22, A) 2 feet thick,
2 feet high, and about 15 yards long. From the. ends of the wall
roughly made masses of limestone and mortar (fig. 22, BB) passed
almost through the mound, inclosing a rectangular space, C. The
wall was evidently the remains of an older structure, as it was
built of well-squared stones and had been broken down at both the
top and sides. The masses of masonry (fig. 22., BB) were 5 to 6 feet
thick by about 5 feet high. The space C was filled with alternating
layers of mortar and small rubble. The spaces (fig. 22, FFF) at the
periphery of the mound were filled with rubble mixed with earth.



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



SULLETIN 64 PLATE 12




METATES AND BRAZOS FROM MOUND NO. 6



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



5ULLETIN 64 PLATE 13




a. SMALL POTTERY SEAL




b. BOWL IN WHICH SKULL WAS FOUND










J9


M 1 '*





c. SKULL
Length, 15.9 era.; breadth, 1.3.9 cm.; height, 13.3 cm.; circumference, -17.9 era.



gannI MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 75

The rubble, wherever found in the mound, contained large quanti-
ties of potsherds, together with flint chips and a few hammerstones.
In the spaces FFF were found numerous fragments of metates and
brazos, with one unbroken specimen of each (pi. 12). At the points
marked (fig, 22, 1, 2, 3, 4) four human interments were encountered at
a depth of 12 to 18 inches beneath the surface. The bodies had been
buried lying on the back, fully extended. The bones were in a very
poor state of preservation, and with each interment were found a few
flint chips, hammerstones, broken spearheads, obsidian knives, and
one or two small, very roughly made, round cooking pots. The whole
mound was removed to provide material for the Corozal streets. On
reaching the ground level it was found that a series of trenches
had been cut through the earth beneath, to the bedrock, and filled in
with small rubble. Figure 23 gives a plan of these trenches, which are
in the form of two parallelograms, measuring 9 yards by 6 yards,
joined by a third of approximately the same area. The trenches
varied from 3 to 4 feet in breadth and from H to 3^ feet in depth,
according to the thickness of the layer of earth over the bedrock.
The space marked figure 23, A, contained remains of at least 30
interments; some of these were in small semicircular excavations
made in the surrounding earth from the sides of the trenches ; these are
shown at figure 23, D; others were made in holes dug in the earth
at various points within the space A. The bodies buried in the ex-
cavations at the sides of the trenches seem to have been crowded in,
in a variety of positions, in order to accommodate themselves to
the size and shape of the cavity. Most of those in the space A
had been buried head downward, the skulls resting in some cases
in earthenware bowls, with the back bent, legs flexed, and knees
drawn up against the chin. Nearly all these bones were decayed
and friable, and could not be removed without crumbling away.
The only exception was the burial marked figure 23, D', from which
the upper part of the skull was recovered almost entire, though
the facial bones and lower jaw were lost. This skull (pi. 13, c)
rested in the bowl shown in plate 13, b, a handsome piece of pottery,
standing upon four nearly globular hollow legs, with slits in their
sides, and within them small spheres of clay which rattled when
the bowl was moved. It is painted yellow and red throughout,
and is nicely polished. A great number of objects were found
accompanying the bones in the space A. These included flint
ax heads and spearheads, flint scrapers, and hammerstones, two
obsidian spearheads, and fragments of obsidian knives, shell and
clay beads, and a small cylindrical pottery seal about 3 inches
in length, with a geometrical device in low relief stamped upon
it (pi. 13, a). The bones of the peccary, curassow, snake, and of
some variety of fish were also found, together with the shells of



76



BUREAU OP AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



[bull. 64



conches, cockles, snails, and hooties (a large variety of fresh-
water snail still eaten by the natives). A block of crystalline lime-
stone, 18 inches long by 8 inches high and 12 inches broad, was
found in one of the semicircular pits leading from the trench at
the upper border of space A, figure 23. It was traversed by 14 longi-
tudinal grooves on its upper, surface, which was slightly concave;
each groove was £ inch broad by | inch deep, quite smooth, and
nearly straight. The stone had seemingly been used as a hone for
giving an edge to small stone implements.








M flat

M $*



K&2J

Fig. 23.— Diagram of trenches in Mound No. 6.



Extending out toward the northeast from the main mound was a
low structure (fig. 22, G) 4 feet in height and 25 yards in length.
It was composed throughout of layers of clay, rubble, and
limestone dust, not very clearly separated. Three separate inter-
ments were found beneath this mound near its center (fig. 22, H),
the bones in all of which were very much decayed. From the first
of these the shallow bowl (fig. 24, a), 7£ inches in diameter by
1J inches deep, together with the vase d, 8 inches in height, were
taken. The vase was of rather fine pottery, painted a uniform
dark red throughout. Nothing else was found with this interment.



GANN]



MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS



77



From the second grave were taken a bowl exactly similar to
that, shown in figure 24, a, two flat dishes 12 inches in diameter
(fig. 24, e), and a small polished bone ring 1 inch in length, seemingly a
section from one of the larger long bones of some large animal. The
vessel g, 6 inches i'n diameter, was also found with this burial; it is
made of fine pottery, painted red, and possesses a curious upturned
spout, which bends inward toward the rim of the pot to such an
extent that it would be impossible either to drink or pour out the
contents therefrom. These curious pots, usually with the spout
parallel to the perpendicular axis of the vessel, are quite common




Fig. 24.— Bowls, vases, and dishes found in Mound No. 6.

among Maya pottery from this district ; they were supposed to have
been used as chocolate pots, but drinking from them must have
been a feat of legerdemain.

From the third grave came two bowls, both almost spherical, the
one 12 inches, the other 6 inches, in diameter (fig. 24, c). At the
point K, near the end of the mound G (fig. 22), three interments
were found, very close together, on the ground level; these had
evidently been contained at one time in a small oval cist, built of
rough blocks of limestone, which had now completely caved in. With
the bones were found the vases shown in figure 24, b,f, h, of the same
red-painted pottery as was found elsewhere in the mound. Six well-
made bone awls, or lance heads, each about 6 inches in length,



78



BUREAU OP AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



[bull. 64



together with a heap of the shells of some large bivalve, one of which
was polished and perforated for use as an ornament, were also found
among these bones. The stones of which the cist had been built,
the bones, and the objects accompanying them were so inextricably
mixed that it was impossible to tell which objects belonged to each
set of bones. Passing through the long axis of this mound was a
rubble-filled trench, 3 feet in breadth, dug down to the bedrock,

exactly similar in structure to those already
described. No interments were found at the
sides of this trench, which is shown in figure
23, E.

Mound No. 6 A

Mound No. 6 A, another of the group of
mounds adjoining the southwesterly bound-
ary of Santa Rita, measured 18 feet by 15
feet at the base, by about 3 feet high at the
highest point, and was built throughout of
earth, large blocks of limestone, and limestone dust. The mound
rested directly on the limestone formation. Into this, near the cen-
ter of the mound, an oval excavation had been made (see C C, fig.




Flag of limestone shown in D, fig. 25




Fig. 25.— A, skul]; B. limestone formation; C, excavation; D, grooved flag in situ; E, projecting lip.

25) about 10 inches in depth, and in size just large enough to con-
tain the skull which was found within it. A ledgelike projection
was left at one edge of the excavation (see E, fig. 25), and just
beneath this rested the point of the jaw. A large heavy flag of lime-
stone (see D, fig. 25), from which a semicircular segment had been
chipped, was placed above the excavation opposite the lip, so that
the groove in the stone inclosed the neck and clamped the skull






GANN] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 79

tightly down in the little hole which had been made to receive it.
On each side of the skull the femora were found, in a nearly vertical
position, condyles downward, and between the femora many frag-
ments of other bones were brought to light, including the tibiae, arm
bones, and vertebrae. Resting upon the limestone flag which covered
the skull lay a large, rudely made chert hammerstone, 8 inches long
by 4 inches broad, which had probably been used in chipping out
the semicircular groove to fit the neck. Near the center of this mound,
2 feet below the surface, two very neatly made flint hammerstones
were found. The dimensions of this skull were: Length, 14.22 cm.;
breadth, 16.76 cm.; circumference, 48.26 cm.; cephalic index, 123.
The base of the skull was so much damaged that the height could
not be ascertained. The extreme breadth in comparison with the
length, giving it a remarkably brachicephalio appearance, was possi-
bly, to some extent at least, the result of post-mortem compression
from before backward within the little cavity which contained it.

Mound No. 7

Mound No. 7, situated very close to No. 6 A, was oval in shape,
measuring 30 yards by 10 yards at the base, and 8 feet high along
the summit. It was built throughout of large blocks of limestone,
limestone dust, and a small proportion of earth. It rested upon the
natural limestone formation, into which, near the western end of the
mound, a shallow oval pit 18 inches in length by 10 inches in depth
had been dug. In this was found a somewhat imperfect skull, resting
with the foramen magnum uppermost. The other bones, which were
distributed irregularly around the hole, were in a poor state of preser-
vation. Upon one side of the skull lay a small shallow bowl, with
four hollow legs, each containing a pellet of dry clay loose in its
interior; and upon the other side a small three-legged vase. Both of
these were of rather crude pottery, painted dark-red throughout and
polished. Two other excavations similar to this were found in the lime-
stone beneath this mound, each containing fragments of a skull in a
very advanced state of decay, surrounded by fragments of the other
bones. No additional pottery or other objects were found beside
them. The two mounds last described are the only ones in which
this peculiar method of interment appears to have been employed.
The procedure seems to have been somewhat as follows: First, the
earth cappmg was removed from the limestone rock, over the area to
be occupied by the mound; next, shallow oval pits were dug in the
rock into which the skulls were wedged ; each body was bent, and the
thighs were flexed on the abdomen, so that the knees touched the
rock on each side of the head; finally, the mound was built up of
limestone dust, earth, and blocks of limestone around the body, in
this position.



80



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



Mound No. 8



[BULL. 64



Mound No. 8, situated very close to Mound No. 7, was roughly
circular, 36 feet in diameter and 4 feet high on its flattened top. It
was built throughout of earth, limestone dust, and blocks of lime-
stone. Projecting from the western edge of the mound was a large,
roughly hewn block of limestone, 3 feet by 4 feet, and 8 inches in
thickness. Running through the center of the mound from east to
west Were two parallel rows of limestone flags, 2 feet apart, projecting
18 inches from the limestone rock upon which the mound was erected
and in which they were embedded. Near the center of the mound,
between the rows of limestone flags and resting on the earth, covered
only with limestone dust, was found a single interment. The skull
is shown in plate 14. Its dimensions are: Length, 17.01 cm.;
breadth, 16.51 cm.; height, 10.68 cm.; circumference, 51.30 cm.;
cephalic index, 97. The body, which was stretched at full length,
had probably been laid face downward, as the bones of the forearms,
also shown in plate 14, were found beneath the skull. With the




Fig. 26. — Circular openings leading into natural cavity.

bones of the hands were found four copper rings, considerably
oxidized; three were plain narrow bands, while the fourth was a
broad flat band decorated with incised double volutes. Some of the
phalanges were colored a bright-greenish tinge, from contact with the
rings. Three of the rings and three phalanges are shown in plate
14. These bones were all in a remarkably good state of preservation,
probably owing to the fact that they were completely surrounded by
fine limestone dust.

Within a few yards of this mound was the opening of a small
chultun, with steps leading to the interior. It was oval in shape,
15 feet long, and at one time had been covered with plaster, which
had nearly all peeled off. The floor was covered with earth, of
which there was a pyramidal heap under the opening. Nothing
was found in this chultun except great quantities of fragments of
large, rough earthenware water vessels.

About 300 yards to the east of the mound three circular openings
were found (see AAA, fig. 26) leading into a large irregular natural
cavity (see C,fig. 26) formed in the limestone (see BB, fig. 26). Each of



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



BULLETIN 64 PLATE 14




SKULL AND BONES FROM MOUND NO.

1



gann] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 81

these openings was about 2 feet in diameter, and close to one of them
a circular slab of stone, 6 inches in thickness, and of about the same
diameter as the opening, was found, which had probably been used
as a cover for the latter. This chultun, unlike the first one, was of
purely natural formation; the walls, which were rough and irregular,
showed no signs of tool marks. The chamber varied in height from
8 to 9 feet beneath the openings, where it was highest, to 2 to 3 feet
at the sides. There was a considerable accumulation of earth upon
the floor (see DD, fig. 26), which had evidently fallen and been blown in,
as it was collected in two heaps beneath the openings. There were
no stone steps leading down into this chultun, and access must have
been gained to the interior by means of wooden ladders, which had
long since disappeared. Numbers of potsherds, shells, pieces of
charcoal, clay beads, and fragments of flint and obsidian implements
were found upon the floor. Several skeletons of small mammals
were also found among the earth, but these creatures had probably
fallen in after the chultun ceased to be used, and had been unable
to get out.

At a distance of less than half a mile from the last-mentioned chultun
another was discovered under somewhat curious circumstances. A
large flat mound was completely removed for the sake of the stone
and limestone dust which it contained, to be used in repairing the
Corozal streets. About the center of the mound, at the ground
level, a heavy circular flag of limestone, 2 feet 4 inches in diameter,
was brought to light. On removing this it was found to cover a
round well-like opening, which expanded below into a small chultun,
12 feet long by 9 feet in greatest diameter. The chamber was egg-
shaped and showed no signs of having ever been stucco-covered.
From the opening a short flight of steps, cut in the rock, led to
the bottom of the chultun. Nothing was found in this chultun with
the exception of two small bowls of rather coarse earthenware,
painted red and polished; one almost globular in shape, 6 inches in
diameter; the other circular, flat-bottomed, 3^ inches in height. The
mound which covered this chultun appeared to have been one of the
commonest kind of burial mounds. At its summit fragments of a
rude circular earthenware pot were found, and near its center frag-
ments of human bones, together with three flint hammerstones and
two small round vessels, one of light yellow, the other of yellowish-red,
pottery.

One of the most remarkable of the chultuns found in this area is
situated at San Andres, within a mile of the village of Corozal. It
was accidentally found by some coolies in digging marl, and as,
unfortunately, the entire roof of the larger chamber and a consider-
able part of that of the smaller had caved in, it was impossible to
70806°— 18— Bull. 64 6



82 BUREAU OP AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY [bull. 64

discover how it had been entered from outside, as no trace of steps
remained. A ground plan of this cJiultun is shown in figure 27. The
small chamber, A, is 8 feet long, 7 feet broad, and 5 feet 6 inches
high in the center; it is cut out of solid rock. The large chamber
(C) is 15 feet in diameter, but as nearly the entire roof has fallen
in, it is impossible to estimate its exact height. The chambers are
partially separated by a wall (B) built of rough blocks of stone and
tough mortar, which has been partly broken down. In the side of
the small chamber, opposite the wall, are three oblong shafts (D, D, D,
fig. 27) cut into the rock, by the side of the chamber wall, which




Ik.. 27. — Ground plan of chultun.

is here nearly perpendicular. Each of these is about 1 foot in depth
by 8 to 9 inches in breadth, and is separated from the chamber by
a single row of bricks (E, E, E, fig. 27) mortared together, reach-
ing from the roof to the floor, so that there is no communication
between the shafts and the chamber. Each shaft opened origi-
nally on the surface of the ground, but the openings had become
blocked by vegetable refuse from the surrounding bush. The bricks
which fill in one side of each shaft are of two kinds. The first, by
far the more numerous, are made of sun-dried clay, yellowish in color,
and very friable; they contain considerable powdered marl. They
measure 8 by 4 by 2 f inches. The bricks of the second kind also
are made of clay, mixed with many pebbles; they have been fired,
are of a reddish color, far harder and tougher than the first variety;
they measure 8 by 4 by 2\ inches. Nothing was found in either
chamber except a few potsherds of various kinds.



gann] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN AND BRITISH HONDURAS 83

These underground chambers, or chultuns, seem to be fairly com-
mon throughout Yucatan. Considerable doubt exists as to the uses
to which they were put. 1 It seems probable that those the walls of
which were plastered with an impervious, cement lining were intended,
as water receptacles, since they could easily have been filled by
drainage from the thatched roofs of buildings in the \icinity, which
have long since completely disappeared. Though the southern part of
Yucatan, unlike the northern, is fairly well watered, plastered chultuns
are not infrequently found there, but always situated at consider-
able distances from a good permanent water supply, as a lagoon
or river. The uncemented chultuns would not hold water, and had
probably been used as storehouses for corn and other provisions.
Some of these chambers were undoubtedly used as burial places, as one
at Platon, on the Old River, 2 was covered by a burial mound, and itself
contained human bones ; but it is possible that their use for this purpose
may have been secondary only. The San Andres chultun is somewhat
puzzling, as it was certainly not a reservoir for water, nor were any
traces of human burial found within it. It had probably been used as
a storehouse for food, though it is difficult to understand the object
of the oblong shafts, leading into the open air, found at the side of the
smaller chamber, as they must have been quite useless for ventilating
purposes, not having any opening into the chamber itself through
which the air might circulate.

Mound No. 9

Mound No. 9, situated close to the chultun, with three openings,
was oval in shape with flattened summit, 44 feet in breadth, 66 feet
in length, and 14 feet high at its highest point. On removing the
summit of the mound to a depth of about 4 feet the floor of a building,
with parts of the walls, was exposed. The cap of the mound, covering
the ruins of the building, was composed of blocks of marl, clay,
rubble, and limestone. The lower part of the mound, upon which
the building stood, was constructed of large blocks of limestone mor-
tared together, forming a solid block of masonry. The building was
in a very ruinous condition; as much of its ground plan as could be

1 Tozzer, in commenting on these chultuns at Nakum, says: " There is evidently no close connection,
as in Yucatan, between the water supply and these underground rooms. In fact they are frequently found
near sites where there is an abundant supply of water throughout the year. In almost no case do we find
any drainage into them. They are usually found on ground slightly higher than that of the surrounding
country. In this respect they differ from those in Yucatan. Another point against their use as storage for
water is shown in the fact that in several the rock from which they are excavated is porous, and the walls
do not seem in all cases to have been covered with an impervious layer of plaster. That they were used in
some cases for the storage of maize and other foods is possible, as they are generally dry and would be suitable
for such a purpose. That some were used for burial places is very probable." — Tozzer, A Preliminary
Study of the Prehistoric Ruins of Nakum, Guatemala, p. 191.

2 Gann: On Exploration of Two Mounds in British Honduras, pp. 430-434; On the Contents of Some
Ancient Mounds in Central America, pp. 308-317.



84



BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY



[bull. 64



traced is shown in figure 28. The walls, A, A, A, are 3 feet 4 inches
in thickness. Such parts as remain standing are built of well-squared
stones held together by mortar (see fig. 30). They are covered with

stucco inside, which is con-
rtooR or hard polished b _ tinuous with the cement floor-
ing of the rooms; outside they
were also covered with stucco
above the water table (B,figs. 28
and29) butnearlyallof thishad
been broken away. The water
table, which projects 3 inches
from the wall, is 12 inches deep;
it is built of well-squared
stones not covered with stucco,
and is continuous below (figs.

29 and 30) with C, a layer of
hard cement IS inches broad,
winch apparently ran com-
pletely round the building, and
possibly acted as a drain to
carry off the water-after heavy
tropical showers. The main
room was 8 feet in breadth
and had probably been about

30 feet in length, with four
doors opening into it, two on
each side. This was floored
with very hard, smooth, pol-
ished cement, which even now
is in an excellent state of pres-
ervation; this flooring is con-
tinuous through the doorways

with the top of the water table, with which it is on the same level.

Nothing was found in excavating this mound, with the exception of a

fragment of a conch-shell trumpet, a piece of

an obsidian knife, numerous potsherds, and

half of a flint paint grinder, with traces of

green paint still adherent to it. All of these

objects were found on the floor of the main

room.

Mounds erected over the ruins of buildings
are extremely common all through this part
of the Maya area; some are very large, covering buildings wluch
had been placed on lofty stone pyramids; some are very small,
as when they cover buildings of a single small room, built almost




FIG. 2S.— Ground plan of Mound No. 9.




Fig. 29.



-Wall construction of
Mound No. 9.



gakn] MAYA INDIANS OF YUCATAN" AND BRITISH HONDURAS


1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryThomas William Francis GannThe Maya Indians of southern Yucatan and northern British Honduras → online text (page 8 of 15)