The funeral chambers of the ancient city of Calakmul (Mexico) and the individuals who were buried in them have brought in recent decades new knowledge about the beliefs and funeral customs of the pre-Hispanic Maya. Tombs and bodies were prepared as part of the rituals that should favor the return of ch'ulel to the Underworld, known as Xibalbá by the ancient Maya. The ch'ulel is one of the two anemic entities that inhabit the individual, equivalent to our concept of the soul. Bodies preparation included coloured scented body ointments application, with a deep symbolic connotation and probably also a conservative purpose. The aim of this research was to characterize pigments and binders used by ancient Maya in body ointments remains in human bones samples from Calakmul Maya archaeological site, and the latter, the physical–chemical identification of organic components mixed with these colours for funeral use, can be considered the great challenge of this research due to the limited results that have been gathered on the subject to date. For this purpose, a multi-analytical approach based on the combination of several non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical techniques has been selected. Pigments were studied by transmitted light optical microscopy, FT-IR spectroscopy in ATR mode, diffuse reflectance UV–VIS spectrometry, and EDX microanalysis provided elemental information in order to find characteristic elements useful to identify the unknown pigments. Surface of the samples was observed with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Gas-Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrometry (GC–MS) and Pyrolysis-Gas-Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) were performed in order to collect information about organic fraction used as binding media. The multi analytical approach identified red pigments as Red Earth (or ochre) and Cinnabar, while the results obtained on organic fractions lead us to suggest the presence of lipidic and gum- based compounds.

The funeral chambers of the ancient city of Calakmul (Mexico) and the individuals who were buried in them have brought in recent decades new knowledge about the beliefs and funeral customs of the pre-Hispanic Maya. Tombs and bodies were prepared as part of the rituals that should favor the return of ch'ulel to the Underworld, known as Xibalba by the ancient Maya. The ch'ulel is one of the two anemic entities that inhabit the individual, equivalent to our concept of the soul. Bodies preparation included coloured scented body ointments application, with a deep symbolic connotation and probably also a conservative purpose. The aim of this research was to characterize pigments and binders used by ancient Maya in body ointments remains in human bones samples from Calakmul Maya archaeological site, and the latter, the physical-chemical identification of organic components mixed with these colours for funeral use, can be considered the great challenge of this research due to the limited results that have been gathered on the subject to date. For this purpose, a multi-analytical approach based on the combination of several non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical techniques has been selected. Pigments were studied by transmitted light optical microscopy, FT-IR spectroscopy in ATR mode, diffuse reflectance UV-VIS spectrometry, and EDX microanalysis provided elemental information in order to find characteristic elements useful to identify the unknown pigments. Surface of the samples was observed with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Gas-Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) and Pyrolysis-Gas-Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) were performed in order to collect information about organic fraction used as binding media. The multi analytical approach identified red pigments as Red Earth (or ochre) and Cinnabar, while the results obtained on organic fractions lead us to suggest the presence of lipidic and gum- based compounds.

New results in ancient Maya rituals researches: The study of human painted bones fragments from Calakmul archaeological site (Mexico)

Rigon, Carolina;Izzo, Francesca Caterina
;
2020

Abstract

The funeral chambers of the ancient city of Calakmul (Mexico) and the individuals who were buried in them have brought in recent decades new knowledge about the beliefs and funeral customs of the pre-Hispanic Maya. Tombs and bodies were prepared as part of the rituals that should favor the return of ch'ulel to the Underworld, known as Xibalbá by the ancient Maya. The ch'ulel is one of the two anemic entities that inhabit the individual, equivalent to our concept of the soul. Bodies preparation included coloured scented body ointments application, with a deep symbolic connotation and probably also a conservative purpose. The aim of this research was to characterize pigments and binders used by ancient Maya in body ointments remains in human bones samples from Calakmul Maya archaeological site, and the latter, the physical–chemical identification of organic components mixed with these colours for funeral use, can be considered the great challenge of this research due to the limited results that have been gathered on the subject to date. For this purpose, a multi-analytical approach based on the combination of several non-destructive and micro-destructive analytical techniques has been selected. Pigments were studied by transmitted light optical microscopy, FT-IR spectroscopy in ATR mode, diffuse reflectance UV–VIS spectrometry, and EDX microanalysis provided elemental information in order to find characteristic elements useful to identify the unknown pigments. Surface of the samples was observed with Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). Gas-Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrometry (GC–MS) and Pyrolysis-Gas-Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (Py-GC-MS) were performed in order to collect information about organic fraction used as binding media. The multi analytical approach identified red pigments as Red Earth (or ochre) and Cinnabar, while the results obtained on organic fractions lead us to suggest the presence of lipidic and gum- based compounds.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/10278/3727147
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