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Article

Robert J. Sharer

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya Southern Lowland city on the Motagua River flood plain in Guatemala, 100 km from the Caribbean. Quiriguá flourished in the Classic period (c. 250–c. 900 ce) and is famous for its sculpted monuments, the largest and among the most beautiful produced by the ancient Maya. Photographs and drawings were published by A. P. Maudslay from 1889 to 1902, and the site has been the subject of several excavations, most recently by the University of Pennsylvania (1974–1979).

Ancient Quiriguá covered c. 4 sq. km, but only the largest structures and carved stone monuments rise above 1–2 m of recent alluvium. Most are concentrated at the site core, covering c. 500 sq. m. The sandstone and rhyolite monuments include upright stelae, flat altars, and zoomorphic sculptured boulders. Most combine historical texts with portraits of Quiriguá’s rulers being presented with symbols of authority to reinforce their earthly and supernatural power. The monuments were erected in the Great Plaza (300 × 150 m). A massive, buried platform in the northern third supports Monuments 1–7 (five stelae and two zoomorphs), all dedicated during the final twenty-four years of the reign of Quiriguá’s greatest ruler, ...

Article

George E. Stuart

Site of Pre-Columbian Maya culture in the northeast of the tropical rainforest of Petén, Guatemala. It was discovered in 1962 by oil prospectors, and Richard E. W. Adams and John Gatling carried out preliminary excavations and mapping on behalf of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, and the Instituto de Antropología e Historia de Guatemala in the same year. Pottery samples from the first test pits indicated that the site was occupied from the Late Preclassic period (c. 300 bcec. 250 ce) to the end of the Classic period (c. 900 ce). Its standing stone buildings, some of which were well preserved, resembled those at Tikal, a much larger Maya site 75 km to the southwest. In 1981 Ian Graham of Harvard University discovered that many of the large pyramids at Río Azul had been cut into and looted; because of this, Adams returned to the site in ...

Article

Olivier de Montmollin

Valley forming part of the Upper Grijalva tributaries region on the southwestern edge of the Lowland Maya area in Chiapas, Mexico. It was the site of several Pre-Columbian settlements noted for their Classic period (c. 250–c. 900 ce) art. The nearest large Maya centers are Chinkultic in the Comitán Highlands and Yaxchilan, Bonampak, and Piedras Negras in the Lacandón jungle, running eastward to the Usumacinta River. Ceramics predating the Classic period suggest that the upper tributaries were originally inhabited by speakers of the non-Maya Zoque language. However, the ceramics and iconography of the Classic period suggest that by this date the area was inhabited by speakers of Maya and that close links had been established with the Lowland Maya area. Between the collapse of the Classic Lowland Maya culture (c. 800–c. 950 ce) and the Spanish Conquest (1521 ce ), close links existed with the Highland Maya cultures of Guatemala....

Article

Robert J. Sharer

Intermontaine basin immediately north of Motagua Valley in the northern Maya Highland area of Guatemala, covering an area of c. 74 sq. km and with an average elevation of c. 1000 m. The region was investigated in 1972–1974 by Robert J. Sharer and David W. Sedat for the Verapaz Project of the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. Twenty-four Pre-Columbian sites were located within the valley, twenty-one of which were sampled by surface surveys and nine by excavations. The data from this work indicate that the sedentary occupation of the valley dates to between c. 1200 bce and the Spanish Conquest in the 1520s.

The first peak of local socio-political development began in the Middle Preclassic period (c. 1000–c. 300 bce) and culminated in the Late Preclassic period (c. 300 bcec. 250 ce). A second, more rapid developmental cycle peaked during the Late Classic period (...

Article

Salango  

Richard Lunniss

Pre-Columbian site in Manabí Province on the central coast of Ecuador, centered at the southern end of a sandy bay, sheltered by a headland and Salango Island. It had several phases of occupation, paralleled on nearby La Plata Island.

An early Valdivia culture settlement, indicated by ceramics, stone artifacts, and animal remains and dated by radiocarbon analysis to the 4th or late 3rd millennium bce, lay between the beach and a lagoon. Extending over the area of the lagoon was a Machalilla-phase midden containing a high density of fish bone and shell, and many mother-of-pearl fish-hooks. Thirty-eight individuals were found in graves cut through the midden, for which radiocarbon analysis has given dates in the second half of the 2nd millennium bce. Attributes of the Chorrera culture and Engoroy style are found in ceramics associated with a rectangular wooden structure built over a clay floor capping part of the Machalilla midden. The formal design of its construction and the more elaborate nature of the associated burials and depositions of artifacts suggest a ritual or ceremonial purpose. The dismantling of this building was immediately followed by the construction of the first of several low rectangular platforms surmounted by wooden structures. Later mounds were surrounded by clay-filled trenches supporting posts. Pottery of the Engoroy type, dated by radiocarbon analysis to the first half of the 1st millennium ...

Article

Janet Catherine Berlo

[Bilbao]

Pre-Columbian Highland Maya site in Escuintla, southern Guatemala, on the outskirts of the modern town of Santa Lucía Cotz. It is the type site of the Cotzumalhuapa art style also known at El Baul, El Castillo, Palo Verde, Palo Gordo, and other sites in the region. Both site and style flourished during the Classic period (c. 250–c. 900 ce). The ceremonial center of Santa Lucía of Cotzumalhuapa stood on a manmade acropolis surmounted by seventeen pyramidal platforms. L. A. Parsons recorded seventy-six stone monuments at the site, although only six remain in situ. In 1880, thirty monuments, including eight famous stelae of ballplayers from the Monument Plaza, were removed to the Museum für Völkerkunde, Berlin. Other pieces are kept at the local finca (landed estate), Las Ilusiones, and at the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia, Guatemala City.

The Santa Lucía Cotzumalhuapa style, typically executed in a combination of high and low relief, is best known from stelae and other stone sculptures. The stelae, set in a vertical position, are rectangular stone slabs dressed on six sides but usually carved on only one face. The Berlin stelae are a coherent group, each depicting a ballplayer, shown in profile and carved in low relief, supplicating a front-facing sky deity in high relief. Irregularly shaped boulder sculptures also occur, and horizontally tenoned stone heads are common. Figural realism is common in the sculptures, and the imagery focuses on the relationship between humans and supernatural beings, portrayed in a frozen narrative suggestive of action and sequence. The central themes are concerned with death and include the ballgame, the sacrifice of trophy heads and hearts and skeletal imagery. There are strong iconographic similarities with the art of such central Mexican centers as ...