Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations

Laboratory to decipher zapotec writing will be opened by 2010

Category: News reports

Mexico, INAH, august 21, 2009. Nearly 300 engraved stones will be studied in the laboratory that will be operating at Monte Alban Archaeological Zone in Oaxaca to advance in Zapoteca writing deciphering. The creation of this scientific research center is possible thanks to contributions of World Monuments Fund (WMF)(90,000 USD), Alfredo Harp Helu Foundation (750,000 MXP) and the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH), to construct and habilitate the space.

Nelly Robles Garcia, director of the archaeological site, remarked the importance of this laboratory since it will promote lecture of Monte Alban stelae in terms of Prehispanic past comprehension, because Zapoteca writing has not been totally deciphered yet. In the ancient metropolis and Oaxaca Valley, there is a great amount of engraved stones and stelae fragments dated between 500 BC and 850 AD.

“This writing system goes back to the first stage of Monte Alban, towards 500 BC; Los Danzantes engraved stones are an example of this. Tradition continued during the next period, (100BC-100AD), exemplified by Lapidas de Conquista, found in Structure J. During Late Classic period (650-850 AD) there was an extraordinary development in writing and historical events were written in stelae.

Laboratory will warrantee that engraved stones distributed around the archaeological zone undergo detailed study, in an adequate place for their preservation and storage. With the support of WMF, experts will be assisted by computers and digital photography equipment, precision measurement devices as well as bibliography and furniture. The objective is that researchers count on with specialized tools to observe engravings, this will help them draw, measure and interpret them.

Robles Garcia mentioned that since 500 BC Zapoteca left their imprint on stones, associating anthropomorphic figures “with certain ways of naming things”, for instance names of persons. During that age, numeral system began, which would reach a great sophistication towards 7th century. Engraved stones from that period are complicated to interpret, because they narrate enthronements and changes of power in Monte Alban. The scenes show musicians and dancers, and very precise dates.

The laboratory construction will be conducted in a nearby area to the archaeological zone, and it is expected to be functioning by 2010. This is an up to date of a site that since 1987 is part of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage List.

Source: INAH.

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