Zapotec Power Rites

Digs & Discoveries September/October 2016

(Courtesy Erica Ausel)
SHARE:
Trenches Mexico mandible
Carved human mandible(Courtesy Erica Ausel)

As early as 700 B.C., the Zapotec people of Mexico’s Oaxaca Valley were ruled by lords living in the city of Monte Albán who practiced public rituals that reinforced their vast power. But around A.D. 700, Monte Albán’s influence began to wane. Now archaeologists excavating at a wealthy residence at the site of Dainzú-Macuilxochitl have found evidence that, around that time, Zapotec nobles were practicing private rituals that celebrated their personal power. A team led by Field Museum archaeologist Ronald Faulseit unearthed a temple connected to a noble residence where they found two pierced human mandibles, one of them carved. The bones likely belonged to venerated ancestors and were worn as adornments during rituals that focused on the importance of hereditary power. “They were stressing their own noble lineage,” says Faulseit, “and emphasizing their political and economic independence.”

MORE TO DISCOVER

Letter from Nigeria

July/August 2024

A West African Kingdom's Roots

Excavations in Benin City reveal a renowned realm’s deep history

Artifacts July/August 2024

Etruscan Oil Lamp

Read Article
Etruscan Hanging Oil Lamp
(Courtesy Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Città di Cortona; © DeA Picture Library/Art Resource, NY)

Around the World July/August 2024

TONGA

Read Article
(Phillip Parton/ANU)

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2024

Bronze Age Beads Go Abroad

Read Article

Features July/August 2024

The Assyrian Renaissance

Archaeologists return to Nineveh in northern Iraq, one of the ancient world’s grandest imperial capitals

Read Article
(Land of Nineveh Archaeological Project)