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Kaminaljuy˙

 
1899 site map

Kaminaljuy˙ Gallery


   After overtaking the earlier site of
Naranjo, Kaminal Juy˙, now  named Kaminaljuyˇ, turned into  a large Ceremonial Maya site, That shows the longest occupation of any Archeological site in America (1500 BC to 1200 AD) located  in the Central highlands, Guatemala, now within modern Guatemala City. its Ancient name was Tulam Tzu, one Excavations in Acropolisof the 5 Tulas in the Maya Tradition (The Central Tulan). Kaminal Juy˙ enjoyed access to a variety of strategic mineral and agricultural resources (e.g. obsidian,
jadeite, cacao) and interregional trade routes. It is during the first part of the Late Preclassic period (ca. 400 B.C.-A.D. 100) that it became a state (ValdÚs and Hatch 1996; Ponciano 2000), and extended its political control beyond the Valley of Guatemala, possibly incorporating areas like the Salama Valley, by ca. 400 B.C. (Sharer and Sedat 1973, 1987). It developed a diverse sculptural and scribal tradition with strong links to sites in the Pacific slopes of Chiapas, Guatemala, and El Salvador, and the Mayan lowlands. The earliest texts from the Mayan region, El Portˇn Monument 1 (ca. 450-350 B.C.) and Kaminal Juy˙ Stela 10 (ca. 400-200 B.C.)


,Mesoamerican Commerce
Routes and goods
production, from the
Pre Classic to
the Post Classic

Kaminaljuy˙ has been described as one of the greatest of all archaeological sites in the New World by Michael Coe, although the remains of the site today are less impressive than many other Maya sites more frequented by tourists. This important site has revealed a lot about Maya ceramics, sculpture, architecture and engineering. This site was the main producer of Obsidian from Quarries nearby The largest being El Chayal, to the west, and also controlled the commerce routs between the Pacific Lowlands, The Highlands and The PetÚn Lowlands for centuries. The site lies in a valley in the west side of Guatemala City and contains a total of over 100 platforms and mounds created before the end of the Pre Classic period (ending approximately AD 150). The valley is surrounded by hills which culminate in a string of lofty volcanoes to the south that separate the area from the Pacific Lowlands. The climate is temperate and the soil is rich. The area was largely swallowed up by real estate developments in the late 20th century, although a portion of the center of Kaminaljuy˙ is preserved as a park.

The Stela 10 (late Preclassic), in Kaminaljuy˙, has the earliest glyphs in Cho┤lan Maya, theStela 10 from Kaminal Juy˙, earlier Text in Classic Cho'lan  Maya in MesoamÚrica language used in the Classic Lowlands sites, suggesting that the origin of this language  was in the Highlands, and that the relationships between the PetÚn and the Highlands, were closer than previously though. Then, during the Terminal Late Preclassic period (ca. A.D. 100-200) a combination of internal and external factors resulted in the collapse of the site by ca. A.D. 200 Kaminaljuy˙ĺs sculptural and scribal tradition with links to the Pacific coast and the Mayan lowlands came to an end. Federico Fahsen (2000:2) has shown that several sculptures at Kaminal Juy˙ carved during this time exhibit captive-display scenes, which he suggests could be evidence of the military conflict that may have led to the Kaminaljuy˙ Stela 10KaminalJuy˙ stela 10cityĺs collapse. The sites of El Portˇn and  Tak'alik Abaj experienced a marked decline, probably as a result of the events at Kaminaljuy˙, and their scribal traditions also come to an end (Hatch et al. 2000). There is evidence for the outright systematic destruction of all glyphic texts at the site, possibly carried out by the invaders (Fahsen 2000), although internal conflict has also been suggested (Parsons 1986, 1988).  It appears that there was a major ceramic discontinuity in parts of Kaminaljuy˙, suggesting that part of the population was replaced; those who remained quickly assimilated culturally to the new occupants (Hatch 2000). What happens after this is an intriguing problem.

The earliest texts from Kaminaljuy˙ areMain Palace excavation Stela 10 (late Verbena phase, 400-200 B.C.), Altars 1 and 2 (early Arenal phase, 200 B.C.-A.D.), Monument 65 (early Arenal phase, 200 B.C.-A.D.), Stelas 15 and 21 (late Arenal phase, A.D. 1-100), and a jade earring 400 B.C.-A.D. 100. The text in the earring bears the name of a personage, STEP-SHARK    or   (EBĺ-XOK), also known to be the name of the founder of the Tikal dynasty, and who is thought to have acceded ca. A.D. 90 (Martin and Grube 2000:27). Thus, the earring could have been inscribed and transported to Kaminaljuy˙ prior to the cessation of its scribal and sculptural tradition.! It may have become an heirloom, passed down from generation to generation, until it was finally interred during the Esperanza phase.


Late Preclassic Stela
(private collection)


It is curious that while most Late Preclassic Mayan inscriptions are found on portable objects, no such examples have been documented for Kaminaljuy˙, other than the Early Classic jade earring. This may be the result of looting during the expansion of Guatemala City. It is possible that some of the well-known unprovenance Late Preclassic inscriptions may have come originally from Kaminal Juy˙ or elsewhere in the Mayan highlands (Coe 1973; Porter 1996). The Kaminaljuy˙ jade earring in fact bears close stylistic and calligraphic resemblances with several unprovenance Late Preclassic texts.Pregnat Figurine

The site was first excavated in 1925 by Manuel Gamio when he made stratigraphic excavations and found deep cultural deposits
yielding potsherds and clay figurines from the Middle to late Preclassic (1500 BC - 150 AD). Later the extent of the siteĺs importance was discovered in 1935 when a local football club began cutting away the edges of two inconspicuous mounds to lengthen their practice field. They uncovered a buried structure and the name was given: (Kaminal Juy˙ from the KichÚ words meaning ôhills of the dead." )

The Pre Classic phase, sometimes called Miraflores, (The phase names are the names where this deposits where found), were the underlying base that made a foundation for later eras of the Classic Maya to flourish. Cultures of this phase had a stable agricultural community. The remains
from this time period are very abundant at Kaminaljuy˙. One period, the Middle Pre Classic, which lasted from approximately 800 to 300 BC. Excavations at Kaminaljuy˙ indicate the communities of the Middle Pre Classic, were sedentary and large enough to produce heavy refuse deposits. They grew and tradedKaminal Juy˙ Middle Preclassic ceemonial bowl cotton in the Escuintla area and practiced loom-weaving and were expert potters. Religious practices that would later be further developed throughout Mesoamerica were taking root at this time, such as mounds to serve as substructures for small shrines or temples and ritual burial of the dead. The abundance of remains from this period at Kaminaljuy˙ indicate it was the seat of a large community. Strong relationships with Monte Alto, in the Pacific Lowlands, have been documented since the Middle Preclassic to late Preclassic

                                                                                            Table showing Kaminaljuyu's phases

Preclassic
Early: 1500-1000 B.C. ArÚvalo  Phase settlement around Lake Miraflores. Dominated by the nearby site of
Naranjo
Middle: 1000-400 B.C. Las Charcas Phase, social differentiation, Majadas Canal Miraflores, Providencia Phase,      effective control of labor, monumental public architecture, prestige goods.
Late: 400-200 B.C.
Naranjo is overtaken,  Verbena statehood, Salamß
200 B.C.-A.D. 100 Arenal Phase, Valley incorporated, hieroglyphic script, Canal San Jorge.
Terminal: A.D. 100-200 Santa Clara Phase, drying up of lake, Canal Mirador, decline and takeover, script tradition ends, elite diaspora, partial population replacement.

Classic
Early: A.D. 200-400 Aurora Phase, population decline, destruction of texts.
Middle: A.D. 400-550 Esperanza Phase, New Architecture and pottery styles.
Late: A.D. 550-900 Amatle Phase, population growth. end of Teotihuacan influence, new sculptural styles.

Postclassic
Early: A.D. 000-1200 Late Esperanza  Phase, city abandonment.

The Las Charcas phase inhabited Kaminal Juy˙ during this Middle Preclasssic Period, which is evident by the stratigraphic position of Las Charcas deposits below those of the Late Preclassic period. Scattered Las Charcas remains throughout the Valley of Guatemala mark a major occupation of the area.

There are two major mounds at the site of Kaminaljuy˙: Mound A and Mound B. Mound A contains most of the material culture of Laspreclassic Bowl Charcas, although there is evidence for a small amount of activity at Mound B during the Middle Peclassic.  A burial in Mound A, containing 8 corpses, one corpse may have received special treatment, as evident by the considerable amount of jewelry and the offerings left with it. There appears to be no evidence that human sacrifice played a role in the burial of these eight individuals.  Excavators suggest the possibility of fabric mats or animal hides. Among the objects found as offerings in the tomb were jade beads Carved Skull, Classicaround the necks of two of the corpses, wafer-like disc shells forming a choker on one skeleton, jade earplug flares, an unusually large amount of shells, a fine obsidian blade, a tortoise shell, metates, and various fine pottery pieces including a whistling jar and a carved tripod vessel. There was also several coarse brown ware vessels heaped against the wall of the tomb.

Many of the
artifacts from Las Charcas not associated with burials were found in pits or Chultunes. There were principally two types of pits: shallow bowl-like pits and bottle-shaped pits. The shallow pits were possibly used for digging clay to be used in building and later to hold refuse. Carbonized avocado seeds, maize cobs and remnants of textiles, basketry, mats and rope fragments have been found in those that are bottle-shaped. It is thought these pits were perhaps used for cooking, storage and/or refuse containers. These pits are not found in any other occupation in Guatemala.

The distinctive
Maya style of pottery had its beginnings in Las Charcas phase. The pottery during this time period shows more careful shaping and more tasteful decorations than the later pottery of Kaminaljuy˙. The exquisite white ware with red designs such as spider monkeys, dragon masks and abstract designs are unique to Las Charcas village culture. Tripod vessels, incense burners and whistling vessels with human and animal effigies are among the other clay pottery created by Las Charcas. A majority of these pieces survive only as potsherds in middens. Those that remain intact are found primarily in the mortuary offerings of the tomb in Mound A. They give an indication of the expert pottery skills and artistic development of Las Charcas people.

Hand-modeled clay female figurines are also highly characteristic of Las Charcas culture. Those found at Kaminaljuy˙ are generally of reddish brown clay and some have a white slip. These female figurines are often pregnant and are thought to have been offerings to promote fertility in the fields.
Usually the arms and legs of the figures are mere stumps but some attempt at a realistic body shape has been made. The head has received the most attention to detail. The nose was pinched into the relief and nostrils were made by punctuating the clay. The eyes and the mouth were formed by strategically applied lumps. The figurines often have earplug flares. Don't miss the Museum Miraflores visit, You will learn and see the Great Importance of Kaminaljuy˙.

Other recent digs have revealed stone monuments, altars and figurines at El Naranjo, near Kaminaljuy˙, that was occupied as early as 800 B.C. Naranjo, Dr. Stuart said, "is proving to be one of the most exciting excavations in the Maya area."

The chief investigator, Barbara Arroyo of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala, said Naranjo was an important ritual site near a water spring. The origin of the
gods is associated with places where water flows.  In his autobiography, "Final Report," recently published by Thames & Hudson, Dr. Coe, the Yale Mayanist, concluded: "The great age of Maya archaeology is far from over. In fact, it's just beginning."
 

 

     

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Last updated 28/01/2011 17:07:34 -0500
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