Artifacts from Western Mexico (Photo Diary)

The San Bernardino County Museum in Redlands, California, includes displays of archaeological artifacts from Western Mexico. Western Mexico includes the modern states of Colima, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, and Sinaloa.

 photo P1120360_zps0hxunjxa.jpg

One of the archaeological features within this region are shaft tombs. Shaft tombs by 300 BCE are associated with circular architecture. There is a central circular altar which is ringed by platforms on which there are residential or temple structures. Michael Coe and Rex Koontz, in their book Mexico: From the Olmec to the Aztecs, report:

“These monumental concentric circles are found illustrated in the tomb offerings, where the circles form the stage for elaborate feasting ceremonies and other rituals. The actual circles are often associated with monumental ball courts, the latter also illustrated in the ceramic sculptures, in some of the most life-like renderings of the athletic ceremony to come out of Mesoamerica.”

According to the Museum display:

“The shaft tombs of Western Mexico contained graved goods such as these statues. Often they were in pairs, male and female. It is suggested that they represented the Grandmother and Grandfather, who guided the soul of the deceased to the Afterlife. They also had Guards for safety in the Afterlife.”

Archaeologists suggest that the symbolism in the shaft-tomb art is characteristic of shamanistic rituals and funerary rituals. The art work in the shaft-tombs also shows the existence of political and/or social hierarchies.

With regard to the structure of the shaft-tombs, the tomb excavated at Huitzilapa in Jalisco is 21 feet deep and was cut down through the center of an elite residential structure. There were two chambers at the bottom of the shaft and each chamber contained the remains of three individuals with a rich variety of grave offerings. The tomb was constructed for the burial of high-ranking individuals. The other five individuals in the tomb—two adult females and three adult males—had died earlier and their bodies prepared and preserved as funerary bundles. With the the burial of the elite male, the bundlers were placed in the tomb with him.

With regard to the geographic range of the shaft-tombs, Michael Coe and Rex Koontz report:

“Outside the heartland, in the states of Jalisco, Colima, and Nayarit, only much smaller shaft tombs and simple pit burials are found, also with ceramic sculpture and other offerings, suggesting that there was a regional hierarchy centered on the Volcano of Tequila region.”

In their Encyclopedia of Ancient Mesoamerica, Margaret Bunson and Stephen Bunson write:

“Ceramics from Western Mexico during the Formative Period reflect individuality and skill. The region is believed to have as many as 15 separate archaeological zones.”

In general, Mesoamerican history prior to the European invasion is divided into several periods: Formative (Preclassic, Protoclassic) from 2,000 BCE to 250 CE; Classic from 250 CE to 900 CE; and Preclassic from 900 CE until the Spanish conquest.

Shown below are some of the Western Mexican artifacts displayed at the San Bernardino County Museum.

 photo P1120365_zpsguin7qxm.jpg The small bowl shown above is from the Classic period. The four snakes on the bowl may represent the four major directions.  photo P1120375_zpspfanoidx.jpg  photo P1120376_zpsbj4wxndp.jpg  photo P1120378_zpse84amnzn.jpg  photo P1120389_zps0lgihdhv.jpg


 photo P1120366_zpsntzqeukw.jpg The pot shown above is the the Late Preclassic to Early Classic period.  photo P1120370_zpsf8kqeznc.jpg Post classic pottery is shown above.  photo P1120371_zpszxwedbu8.jpg Shown above is a replica of a postclassic dog sculpture.  photo P1120372_zpsr6ytk1fn.jpg Shown above are some Protoclassic dog images.  photo P1120374_zpsmbd7i78p.jpg Shown above are Protoclassic pieces.


 photo P1120381_zpsh5v8zisg.jpg  photo P1120382_zpsgiqnrtg1.jpg  photo P1120383_zpsvkzp8yhh.jpg Shown above is a Protoclassic resist ware bowl.  photo P1120384_zps9gehqegt.jpg Shown above is a Protoclassic effigy figure.  photo P1120390_zpse4uu8wzq.jpg Shown above is a Late Classic ladle.


 photo P1120361_zpswrk6sbsh.jpg The ceramics shown above are from the Protoclassic in coastal Nayarit.  photo P1120354b_zps9vsqjfzi.jpg Shown above is a bowl from the Classic period. San Bernardino County Museum

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