Ancient jewellery made of painted human jawbone found

During archaeological works at an ancient residential complex at the site of Dainzú-Macuilxóchitl in the Oaxaca Valley (southern Mexico) unique artefacts were discovered. Painted human mandibles were found that may have been worn like necklace pendants. They date back ca. 1300 years. The site was used by the Zapotecs, a people who still live in the region and speak their own Zapotec language. In the same ceremonial area, numerous whistles and ceramic figurines were also discovered, some of which depicting Xipe Totec, a Mesoamerican god associated with human sacrifice and agricultural activity.

Painted jawbone from the Dainzú-Macuilxóchitl site (by Live Science)
Painted jawbone from the Dainzú-Macuilxóchitl site (by Live Science)

The archaeologists found roughly 3,000 figurine fragments and 1,600 whistle fragments. A ceramic kiln and about 30 figurine molds were also discovered in the ceremonial area. While some of the figurines showed Xipe Totec, the identity of many of the fragments remains unknown. During the families’ long period of habitation at the residential complex (dated to last for at least 400 years), the bones of the residents were exhumed, painted and modified. The remains of their ancestors were probably brought out from the tombs. The archaeologists speculate that people likely used the bones of their ancestors in a ritual way to demonstrate the linkages between themselves and their ancestors as a way of sort of legitimizing their positions within that community.

(after Live Science)

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