We have been finding many chunks of burned clay in the three most recent house excavations (units 315, 316, and 317). These are burned daub, sometimes called “bajareque.” They are evidence of the use of wattle-and-daub construction in the houses at Calixtlahuaca. This is somewhat of a surprise, both in terms of the presence of this type of house in the
and in the nature of the construction methods. Wattle and daub is a form of house construction that was used in virtually all parts of the world in ancient times, and in traditional ethnographic houses in tropical areas today. A frame is built of sticks or cane; this is the wattle. Then mud (daub) is applied over the frame. The mud dries and fills in the spaces between the wattle. When a wattle-and-daub house burns down, the daub (sun-dried clayey mud) is fired like any other ceramic material, and becomes hard and almost indestructible.
The photo shows some of the pieces of burned daub from unit 316. The first odd thing is that this kind of construction was used at all in the
Wattle-and-daub is rarely or never used in peasant houses today in the vicinity of
The second unusual thing about our burned daub is its form. The burned daub I have seen from Morelos and from other parts of highland
In reading about the archaeology and ethnoarchaeology of wattle-and-daub houses, I am struck by the fact that accidental fires are almost never sufficient to fully fire the daub. When archaeologists find extensive burned daub at a site, it is almost certain that the houses were deliberately burned down; additional fuel typically has to be added to the fire. Perhaps significantly, two or three of our excavations with abundant burned daub also have extensive areas of burned earth and charcoal. Who burned these houses and why? We are still looking for answers to these and other questions.