Saturday, March 24, 2007

An ancient house: excavation 309

This structure, and that uncovered in excavation 307 (stay tuned), are the first Postclassic houses to be excavated in the Toluca Valley. We didn’t know whether to expect the small, one-room houses we had excavated in Morelos, or the larger, multi-roomed structures found at Aztec sites in the Valley of Mexico. In size and complexity, the house in unit 307 turned out to be closer to the latter pattern. Unfortunately, the structure was not buried very deeply and it had been damaged by plowing in recent decades. This was a fairly rapid excavation due to a deadline imposed by the landowner. It was supervised very ably by ASU graduate student Angela Huster.

The photo shows us uncovering the central part of the structure. Stone rubble covers a central earth floor. On the north and east sides of the structure (farthest away in the photo) are stone pavements made of large, rectangular slabs. For a number of reasons, we think that these were exterior patio areas rather than interior rooms. There were three distinct stages of superimposed stone pavements, of which only the final stage used the large well-made slabs. We are hoping that the ceramics found below and between the floor will help us work out a chronology for the site.

After this picture was taken, we found a separate room that opened out to the west (right side of the photo). The stone rubble that covers the central floor in the photo consisted mainly of building stones—both cut and unfinished stone—from the house walls. But the rubble also included a large number of architectural ornamental stones. The photo shows column bases and cones (called “clavos” in Spanish) that were used for decoration in Aztec elite residences and temples. Was this the house of an elite family? Only continuing analysis of the architecture and artifacts will tell.

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