Friday, February 16, 2007

The excavations are started

We started digging a week ago. Our first task is to explore the area close to the royal palace (known locally as the "calmecac"). We are starting here becuase farmers will begin to prepare these fields for planting in March, and we want to be done before then. The photo shows some of the rooms in the palace.

This work has several goals: (1) to see if we can find any houses (elite or other) or other features in this area. In our 2006 survey and surface collections, we found very little evidence of occupation on the plain (where the palace is located); nearly all occupational debris was found on the slopes of Cerro Tenismo. Was the plain really empty or settlement (beyond the palace), or were there Postclassic occupations that are now deeply buried? (2) We are looking for possible refuse deposits from the palace. No one has excavated refuse from an Aztec royal palace. What did the royals eat for dinner? Did artists (sculptors, featherworkers, etc.) work at the palace? We know little about the lifestyles of the Aztec rich and famous, apart from what their descendents told the Spaniards after the Spanish conquest. Most archaeologists want more direct information on such topics, and data from the palace garbage heap will have less bias than the biased claims of colonial Aztec nobles. Finally, (3) We need to investigate the stratigraphy of the area. We located what appear to be intact Postclassic refuse deposits buried under a meter and more of dense clay. To someone used to finding Postclassic deposits in and just under the plow zone, this is quite a change. We are below the level of the palace, but not immediately next to it, so we now have to figure out if the clay (from a flood or colluvial event) was deposited before or after the construction of the palace.

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