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13 December 2010
New discoveries at Chiapa de Corzo, Mexico

Chiapa de Corzo is an archaeological site of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, located in the Central Depression of Chiapas of present-day Mexico. Along with about a half dozen other centers, this site appear to have coalesced by 700 BCE into a distinct Zoque civilization: an archaeological culture that became the conduit between late Gulf Olmec society and the early Maya.
     Recent discoveries by the Chiapa de Corzo Archaeological Project at Mound 11 of the Mixe-Zoque site include human skeletal fragments and some unusual grave goods. The individuals are males, and thought to be the companions of a higher-ranking individual. These additional discoveries are thought to date to 500 BCE, although the entire tomb is 2,700 years old, and likely the earliest thus far discovered in Mesoamerica.
     The project's co-director, Lynneth Lowe, of the UNAM Center for Maya Studies, states, "This is a very rich burial." Dr. Lowe indicates that many of the artifacts found have symbolic associations with the underworld. A unique find is that of a whole turtle-shell pendant carved with an individual with Olmec features; previously-discovered similar pendants have been fragmented. The pendant is also notable because it confirms the site's connection with the more centrally Olmec region of La Venta, on the Gulf coast. Other features of the site tie it to the central valleys of Oaxaca, the Pacific coast, and the valley of Montagua in Guatemala.
     Aside from DNA and radiocarbon testing, further studies of the remains found at Mound 11 will include dental analysis. Two of the individuals discovered demonstrate the earliest examples of dental incrustations with shell or jade yet found in the region.
     
Edited from ArtDaily (8 December 2010)

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