Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

CQUni Researchers in Mexico; Students, Expert Help with Uncovering Mayan Secrets

Newspaper article The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton, Australia)

CQUni Researchers in Mexico; Students, Expert Help with Uncovering Mayan Secrets

Article excerpt

ABOUT 1000 years ago, dozens of Mayans were laid to rest in a cave, which may have been reserved for elite social groups, based on the ruins of elaborate houses nearby.

Their teeth had cavities but not much wear, indicating a soft, carbohydrate-rich diet, probably based on corn.

Some teeth had jade inlays and others were filed into different shapes, while some crania were modified (indicating head binding).

"There were so many bones together in the cave, we think it may have been a cemetery of sorts," said CQUniversity Bioarchaeologist Dr Stan Serafin.

Dr Serafin recently travelled to Mexico with two of his Rockhampton-based undergraduate anatomy students, Hayley Vandenberg and Jacqueline Harper.

The human remains were excavated from a cave in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, which borders Guatemala.

The team from Australia based themselves in the new archaeology laboratory at the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes de Chiapas in the city of Chiapa de Corzo.

The CQUni academic says the remains date to the Late Classic (A.D. 800-1000) and Early Postclassic (A.D. 1000-1200) periods.

"This was an important period of transition during which many Mayan cities were collapsing, yet for unknown reasons this region of highland Chiapas saw an increase in population. Geographically, the sample is from the western Mayan borderlands where there were, and still are, diverse Mayan and non-Mayan ethnic groups in close proximity."

The excavations were part of the Proyecto EconA[sup.3]mico de los Altos de Chiapas, a project co-directed by Dr Roberto LA[sup.3]pez Bravo and Dr Elizabeth Paris of the University of Calgary.

Dr Serafin will continue to collaborate with Dr LA[sup.3]pez Bravo and Dr Paris.

He is the only Australia-based academic specialising in burials from ancient civilisations of the Americas, so the excursion was a unique experience for the two Rockhampton students. …

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