Palenque (Mexique) : Une nécropole royale

Palenque, une nécropole royale

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L'INAH a publié hier sur son site une série d'informations et de photographies qui rendent compte de fouilles qui ont lieu actuellement au Temple XX, alors qu'il s'agissait originellement de le restaurer. En fait, il s'agit des premières images de l'intérieur de la tombe. On sait en effet que l'existence de cette tombe depuis longtemps.
Pour accéder à la crypte où ne repose aucun sarcophage (ce qu'on savait déjà en 2003), il faut rejoindre la plateforme située en haut de la pyramide à 19 mètres de hauteurs. Là on descend dans un puits de trois mètres de profondeur.

Plateforme du Temple XX, Palenque. /Classique, Maya. -Photo Mauricio Marat/INAH  
Au cours de la descente, on peut observer les différentes phases de reconstruction et d'agrandissement de l'édifice. C'est dans une cavité de 15 cm sur 15 cm que les archéologues ont introduit une camérique endoscopique, suffisamment petite, légère et éclairée pour nous donner une vision de ce qu'est la chambre funéraire.

Orifice d'accès à la crypte funéraire du Temple XX, Palenque. /Classique moyen, Maya.-Photo Mauricio Marat-INAH  
Coordinatrice du projet, l'archéologue Martha Cuevas est revenu pour la presse sur les différents éléments visibles sur les clichés. Elle a notamment souligné la présence de peintures murales de couleur noire sur fond rouge. En cela, la crypte se distingue de la Tombe de la Reine Rouge, dont les parois étaient seulement couvertes de stuc peint en rouge.

Peintures murales rouges, crypte du Temple XX, Palenque./ Classique moyen, Maya. Photo INAH
En effet, si vous observez les deux clichés suivants, on se rend compte de la présence d'éléments géométriques et de neuf personnages.

Peinture murale, crypte du Temple XX, Palenque./ Classique moyen, Maya. Photo INAH 

Eléments géométriques, peinture murale, crypte du Temple XX, Palenque.- Classique moyen-Maya.- Photo INAH 
Sur le sol de la crypte reposent onze céramiques avec ce qui semblent des restes d'offrandes, accompagnées de pièces de jadéite et de coquillages.

Céramiques, piècees de jade et coquillages. /Crypte du Temple XX, Palenque, Classique moyen, Maya. Photo  INAH


CIV   101 :  Civilisations précolombiennes mésoaméricaines / Mesoamerican Civilizations

Archaeologists lower camera into early Mayan tomb

Mark Stevenson / Associated Press

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A small, remote-controlled camera lowered into an early Mayan tomb in southern Mexico has revealed an apparently intact funeral chamber with offerings and red-painted wall murals, researchers said. Footage of the approximately 1,500-year-old tomb at the Palenque archaeological site showed a series of nine figures depicted in black on a vivid, blood-red background. Archaeologists say the images from one of the earliest ruler's tombs found at Palenque will shed new light on the early years of the once-great city state. The National Institute of Anthropology and History said archaeologists have known about the tomb since 1999, but have been unable to enter it because the pyramid standing above it is unstable and breaking into the chamber could damage the murals. It said the floor appears to be covered with detritus and it is not immediately evident in the footage if the tomb contains recognizable remains. But archaeologist Martha Cuevas said the jade and shell fragments seen on the video are "part of a funerary costume."

The chamber was found in a heavily deteriorated pyramid complex known as the Southern Acropolis, in a jungle-covered area of Palenque not far from the Temple of Inscriptions, where the tomb of a later ruler, Pakal, was found in the 1950s. While Pakal's tomb featured a famous and heavily carved sarcophagus, no such structure is seen in the footage of the tomb released Thursday. The institute said in a statement that "it is very probable that the fragmented bones are lying directly on the stones of the floor." But Cuevas said the discovery shed new light on early rulers, and its proximity to other burial sites suggested the tomb may be part of a funerary complex."All this leads us to consider that the Southern Acropolis was used as a royal necropolis during that period," Cuevas said.

Susan Gillespie, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Florida who was not involved in the project, said "this is an important find for Palenque and for understanding Early Classic Maya history and politics," in part because the later rulers who made the city-state larger tended to build atop their predecessors' temples and tombs, making it hard to get at them. "Palenque was a relatively important western Maya capital in the Early Classic, but with the buildup during the time of Pakal and some of his successors, those accomplishments were buried and thus difficult to assess, buried literally by Late Classic structures atop Early Classic ones," Gillespie wrote. The later rulers wrote almost obsessively about Palenque's history in long stone inscriptions, but Gillespie noted that "finding archaeological confirmation of the earlier kings has been extremely difficult."

The tomb's floor occupies about 5 square meters (yards), with a low, Mayan-arch roof of overlapping stones. Experts say it probably dates to between 431 and 550 A.D., and could contain the remains of K'uk' Bahlam I, the first ruler of the city-state. The tomb's existence was revealed by a shaft found near the top of the ruined pyramid, leading downward. But it was too narrow to provide any kind of view of the chamber. In late April, researchers lowered the tiny two-inch-long camera into the tomb using the six-inch (15-cm) wide shaft. While the general public had not seen images of the interior of the tomb, video of it was made after the chamber was detected in 1999, noted David Stuart, a specialist in Mayan epigraphy at the University of Texas at Austin. The images had circulated among researchers and been posted on the internet, and Stuart said that some evidence suggests the tomb "is the burial of a noted female ruler of Palenque named Ix Yohl Ik'nal, based on the date and on the identities of ancestral figures painted on the walls." "The female ruler is mentioned in a number of the historical texts of the site," Stuart wrote. It would not be the first tomb of a female noble found at Palenque; in 1994 archaeologists found the tomb of a woman dubbed The Red Queen because of the red pigment covering her tomb. But it has never been established that she was a ruler of Palenque, and her tomb dates from a later period, between 600 and 700 A.D.