Approximately 1600 years ago Temple night sun served as a lighthouse, a blood-red color of which was visible for several kilometers, and decorated the building giant masks Mayan sun god in the form of a shark, drinking the blood of creatures and the jaguar …
Watch Temple bloody masks
It has long been lost in the Guatemalan jungle temple finally opened archaeologists and gives new clues about the history of the rival kingdoms of the Maya.
In contrast to the relatively centralized empires of the Aztecs and the Incas, the Maya civilization, which is geographically cover most of modern Guatemala, Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula, was the accumulation of free city-states.
"This suspicion appeared in the 1990s., When it became clear that some of the Maya kingdoms were stronger than others," — says archaeologist Stephen Houston of Brown University, who led the study and reported the discovery of the temple.
El Zotts what is now Guatemala, was one of the small kingdoms that sought to make an impression of power and importance.
By 2010, archaeologists working near the ancient center of the city, found the Pyramid of the Devil (13 m high). There they found the king's palace and burial, where it is thought to have buried the first ruler of the city, who lived about 350-400 years. BC. e.
At the same time, Houston and his colleague noticed the first signs of the Temple night sun near the royal tombs on the Pyramid of the Devil. It was only during the recent excavations under the centuries-old layers of other civilizations were found unique art work of the kingdom of El Zotts.
The sides of the temple are decorated with stucco masks, each of which reaches five feet in height. Sculpture represent the face of the sun god, varying depending on the time of day, according to the position of the sun in the sky.
One mask is similar to the head of the shark, which is probably a reference to the sun over the Caribbean Sea to the east, Houston said in an interview with National Geographic.
The midday sun is depicted as an ancient creature, drinking blood. The latest series of masks like jaguars, who wake up with the sun and go hunting.
In the culture of the Mayan sun is associated with new beginnings, and the god of the sun — with the royal dignity, says Houston. Thus, the multiple manifestations of the solar image on the temple next to the royal tomb may indicate that the person buried there, was the founder of the dynasty — the first king of El Zotts. According to Houston, it is — an example of the Maya belief in "how the sun itself noted kings and dynasties, which will follow the buried."
Archaeologist David Freidel, who studies Mayan many years, added: "I support the hypothesis of Houston that the building was dedicated to the sun as a god, which is closely associated with the rule. Pyramid of the Devil, of course, will greatly expand our understanding of the early classic Maya religion and ritual practices. "
Houston's team also found evidence that the Maya adds new layers of images to the temple with each generation, were due to the building as a living being. For example, noses and mouths of masks in the older, deeper layers of the temple were systematically altered.
"This is quite common in the Mayan culture — said in an interview with Houston for National Geographic. — It is difficult to find an image of King Maya, which would not change the eyes or not to break off a nose, but the "distortion" or "change" — not the most appropriate term to describe this process. I see it as a kind of symbolic notation deactivation, as if they turn off the mask before play them in subsequent layers … This is — not an act of disrespect. Just the opposite. "
Expert on Mayan culture, Simon Martin of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania, says that the masks in the newly opened temple of El Zotts "absolutely unique" and their value is enormous, because they give ample evidence for the theory about the images of the sun god representatives of the Mayans.
"We have an image of the sun god at various stages, but we have never found something that would help us put it all together into a unified theory — says Martin. — We had to collect a certain sequence of fragmentary pieces of information, and just believe that it is right. And now we have the opportunity to see the whole picture completely. "
The temple is also very well preserved, Martin added, making it a "real gold mine of information." "We've seen a few places where entire buildings were safeguarded, — he said. — But usually the Maya destroyed the structure and then built on its ruins. So when you find a building to see the full picture of its decoration is impossible. "
But the builders of the Mayan El Zotts taken steps to preserve the original structure of the temple, having strengthened its land and small boulders before you build the following levels.
"Feel free to look in the face"
Archaeologist Karl Taube of the University of California at Riverside indicates mastery of making masks. "They are three-dimensional. Individuals sticking above the façade. Is not often seen, because if their project is too colossal for the quality always suffers. But here, the Maya were able to fully realize our plans. Thanks to the play of light faces look particularly dramatic at different times of the day "- says Taub.
Project manager Houston added that the color masks — dark red, according to the footsteps of paint — also makes them stand out. "The bright red pigment looks particularly impressive at dawn and at sunset," — says Houston. The brightness of the red color and the high location of the Temple night sun indicate that the temple was meant "to see and be seen."
The most important thing — this temple was visible from Tikal, larger, older and more powerful kingdom, which could be as friendly and hostile to the El Zotts.
"We tend to think that the kingdom was completely self-contained, but for the sacred Mayan king was often part of a hierarchy of kings, — Martin said in an interview with National Geographic. — So, people in El Zotts perhaps to a greater or lesser extent, have been under the influence of Tikal, Tikal, and when the power weakened, they become totally independent or linked to the more powerful kings of the Maya. "
Expected more discoveries
Despite the obviously huge amount spent on the construction and preservation efforts of the temple, it is not used for a long time. The data at the site indicate that the building was abandoned around V century. for unknown reasons.
"It seems that people just took my stuff and left — says Houston. — I think what we see — is the death of the dynasty. "
The answers to these and many other questions are likely to become apparent in the course of further investigation of the Temple night sun.
"At the moment we have learned 30% of the facade of the temple, — says Taub. — I think we have a lot of discoveries and greater understanding of the value of the building in the context of the history of the kingdom of El Zotts. "