Excavations in the Structure 6F-4 Locality

Charles Suhler and David Freidel

We carried out our most intensive investigations in 1993 on the Structure 6F-4 locality, an 8 m tall pyramid in its final form. Structure 6F-4 is on the western side of a triadic arrangement of three pyramidal buildings comprising the core of the north acropolis at Yaxuna. In 1992, in pursuit of possible remains of a Terminal Classic superstructure (Suhler and Freidel 1993), we initiated a summit test excavation and a small, shallow exposure on the southwestern upper slope. Based on these investigations, we discerned that Structure 6F-4 was a complex feature with at least two rebuildings of a summit superstructure and at least three separate construction episodes. The earliest building phase dated to the Late Preclassic period on the basis of sealed ceramic deposits. The following two phases we assigned to the Terminal Preclassic/Early Early Classic, and the Early Classic (Suhler and Freidel 1993, Freidel and Suhler 1992).

We also initiated investigations at this time into a Terminal Classic building "hung" onto the south side of Structure 6F-4. At the end of the excavations, because we found no evidence of Terminal Classic constructions at Structure 6F-4, we assigned this building its own number, Structure 6F-68. We discussed this building and its operations separately from the Structure 6F-4 excavations (Suhler and Freidel 1993). We will stick to the same locality nomenclature in this report, in spite of the fact that our latest work shows Structure 6F-4 to have some Terminal Classic features coeval with Structure 6F-68.

Our excavations this season focused on the western basal side of Structure 6F-4 (Op. 39-F), the western upper level and northern side (Op. 39-G), and a connecting area between the upper and lower western side (Op. 39-H). All in all, we have conducted clearing investigations over about 30 % of the surface area of Structure 6F-4. The figure jumps up to about 45 % if the 6F-68 operations are included (Fig. 1). In terms stratigraphic penetration, our coverage in these areas is much more modest. The great majority of the work in 1993 consisted of extensive clearing, definition and documentation of the latest architectural features in each sector of the locality, with some stratigraphic excavation within these cleared areas. Nonetheless, by the end of the field season we had evidence that Structure 6F-4 was the location of at least 5 superimposed construction episodes, some immediately following the earlier architecture and some apparently separated from the preceding construction by a period of time. In general, the Late Preclassic to Early Classic sequence seems to have been relatively continuous, without any evidence for abandonment or decay between construction episodes. The latest constructions at the Structure 6F-4 locality, however, date to the Terminal Classic and were undertaken in conjunction with the erection of Structure 6F-68. This architecture appears to have been the modification of a building that had been abandoned for some time.

The earliest construction we have been able to detect thus far we designate Structure 6F-4/5th. We found traces of this building on the western base of the 6F-4 locality, in sub-floor tests in Room 1 and the under the gallery of the Structure 6F- 4/2nd palace north of the Room 1 dividing wall. Due to the very limited subsurface probes of 6F-4/2nd, the only Structure 6F- 4/5th features recorded to date are two 1.0 to 1.5 meter tall sections of vertical, masonry wall.

In the gallery sub-floor test, we recorded a 1.5 m wide section of the Structure 6F 4/5th wall. We could observe additionally 2 m of this wall through the covering dry core fill to the north and 1 m to the south (Fig. 2). The wall itself was composed of medium sized unworked and roughly worked limestone cobbles laid in semi regular courses. This wall was laid on top of a 20-30 cm thick layer of levelling ballast which, in turn, rested on a stabilizing core of large, boulder sized dry laid fill. To the west of the face of the wall, the builders had placed a 10-15 cm thick polished plaster floor on top of the levelling ballast. This floor did not continue underneath the wall. Instead, it rolled up the face of the 6F-4/5th terrace to become the formal, beige colored, polished plaster facing covering the rough masonry wall.

We could not determine the original height of Structure 6F- 4/5th from the stratigraphy present in the two sub-floor tests. In the subfloor test inside Room 2 of Structure 6F-4/2nd, the top of the Structure 6F-4/5th wall was capped by a 10 cm layer of a relatively fine-grained gray marl overlain by a 8-10 cm thick white plaster floor. This floor was not original to Structure 6F- 4/5th, however, but rather was related to the construction of Structure 6F-4/4th and it was polished in places. It appears to us a likely possibility that an unknown portion of the Structure 6F-4/5th terrace wall may have been removed during the construction of the lower terraces of Structure 6F-4/4th.

In the Room 1 sub-floor test the Structure 6F-4/2nd palace, we exposed only the top preserved portion of the Structure 6F- 4/5th terrace wall (Fig. 3). We did not excavate below this level and therefore we could not determine whether or not this southern section of buried wall rested on the same floor as the northern portion of 6F-4/5th exposed in Room 2. Our reason for leaving this matter open to further investigation is that the southern wall was also positioned further to the east than the northern section (Fig. 4). We infer that the wall of 6F-4/5th cornered to the east some place between the two exposures and then continued south, presumably cornering again even further to the south to form a southern side of 6F-4/5th. In light of the complex ground plan, the possibility remains of several elevations for the footing of these walls. While we were unable to establish horizontal continuity between the two 6F-4/5th wall sections, we believe, based on the use of identical plaster to face each section and the stratigraphic locations of the walls, that they represent architectural features of the same building.

We base our dating of Structure 6F-4/5th on the field analysis of a sealed sample of sherds from beneath the plaster floor at the base of the northern wall section. Fernando Robles (personal communication 1993) was able to assign the sherds from this lot to the Late Preclassic Chicanel ceramic sphere. This dating is commensurate with our expectations for this stratigraphic phase of the locality and ties it in to other Late Preclassic architecture at Yaxuna: Structures 6E-53 and 6E-120, the Dance Platforms (Suhler and Freidel 1993: sections 2 and 3); Structure 5E-19 (Ardren, this report); and the large superstructure foundation braces found in the sondages below Structure 6F-7 in the southern plaza of the North Acropolis; presumably elite residences (Suhler and Freidel 1993: section 6). One of the architectural diagnostics of these early buildings is a very hard, beige colored plaster used to cover roughly coursed masonry walls in conjunction with soft, rounded edges rather than the white plaster and sharp edges characteristic of the Early Classic at Yaxuna.

As we have not reached the bottom of the occupational sequence at the north acropolis, it would be premature to tag Structure 6F-4/5th as the earliest construction in this locality. It is, however, the earliest north acropolis building we have discerned so far of monumental scale. As such, we surmise from its position that, at least by the Late Preclassic period, the north acropolis had a triadically arranged public group of the kind first documented for centers in the southern Maya Lowlands (Freidel 1979). The presence of this building and the others mentioned above documents Late Preclassic elite occupation at Yaxuna. This strengthens our hypothesis that Late Preclassic Yaxuna was a royal Maya center in the tradition of the royal centers of the southern lowlands such as El Mirador, Tikal, Waxak- tun, Nakbe, Cerros, and Lamanai (Suhler and Freidel 1993: sections 2 and 3).

Structure 6F-4/4th is a building that we have encountered in several places along the western side of the locality (Fig. 5). In our 1992 excavations, this building was the deepest found in the summit test (Suhler and Freidel 1993). Due to the restricted nature of our overall 1992 excavations in Structure 6F-4 we had labelled this construction as 6F-4/3rd. As a result of the additional 6F-4 architectural phases revealed by the 1993 excavations, this building is now labelled 6F-4/4th. We realize that changing designations is awkward. Some Mayanists prefer to give building episodes nick-names during research in order to avoid this problem. However, the value of formal nomenclature is that it conveys the stratigraphic relationship between phases in a locality while nick-names do not. We prefer to risk some modification of the sequences and enjoy the increased descriptive precision in field reporting.

We discovered a portion of the summit building platform and uppermost western terrace of Structure 6F-4/4th in our test excavations during the 1992 field season. In light of the sub- sequent structures, all of which faced westwards towards the plaza this locality shares with Structures 6F-2 and 6F-3, we infer that Structure 6F-4/4th faced that direction. Our test trench thus exposed the summit on its centerline accessway. We exposed about 60 cm, east-west dimensions, of the uppermost western terrace in our trench. This terrace banked against the building platform. Only the two courses of this building platform were preserved and it may have been a course higher. The surface of the platform had been chopped away behind the wall and then refilled with rubble, presumably in conjunction with the establishment of Structure 6F-4/3rd. This penetration may have served to place a tomb or large termination offering into the center of Structure 6F-4/4th prior to its internment by Structure 6F-4/3rd. Excavation to a depth of a meter below the level of the western terrace in the eastern end of the trench did not reveal any features. Further depth was not feasible within the confines of this limited exposure. The ancient removal of the building platform to the east of the terrace edge makes it currently impossible to tell if the summit of Structure 6F-4/4th was open, the tradition of Structures 5C-54 (Laporte and Fialko 1990) at Tikal and E-VII at Uaxactun (Ricketson and Ricketson 1937), or if it did in fact have a masonry superstructure.

At the end of the 1992 investigations we thought that the western edge of the upper terrace also represented the top tread of a main staircase which descended west from this point to the main plaza of the north acropolis. This hypothesis of orientation was confirmed during the 1993 excavations when we found a portion of this main staircase below the floor of the Burial 24 tomb chamber, as described further on in this section. We found two treads, about 25 cm in width, and a riser, 19 cm in height, in this sub-floor test. An east-west section of the staircase here provided construction details. The core of the stairs was com- posed of compact, cobble-sized stones with a heavy mix of soil. There were few air pockets in this fill (Fig. 6). This was in contrast to the large gapction of this phase on the summit. Possibly the differing construction techniques pertained to a perceived need for particular stability on the staircase. The builders placed a 10-15 cm thick layer of coarse marl and soil on top of the core and this formed the ballast for both the formal surface and the base of each riser. They made the risers of two courses of rectangular dressed blocks. The surface of the stairs was a 5 cm thick, polished, very hard, white plaster layer. This plaster surface continued from the lower tread, up the riser, and onto the upper tread in an unbroken flow. True color determination of the plaster was not possible due to the color shift produced by the halogen lights used to illuminate the chamber. Beyond a small cut in antiquity and the removal of two riser stones, the staircase suffered none of the construction ravages of its successor, 6F- 4/3rd.

Again, sub-floor tests in the rooms at the base of Structure 6F-4's western side revealed elements of Structure 6F-4/4th. In the Room 2 test we found Structure 6F 4/4th directly overlain by the floor of 6F-4/2nd (Fig. 7). The reason for this apparent disjunction will be discussed later in the section covering Structure 6F-4/3rd. The western basal portion of Structure 6F-4/4th, seen in Room 2, was comprised of the northern and western edges of a 30 cm terrace step and the southwest corner of this same step. These terrace faces were in the respective northern and eastern profiles of the test unit with a lower terrace floor to their south and west (Fig. 8). This lower terrace floor extended over the entire test pit, covering Structure 6F-4/5th and rolling up onto the face of the terrace steps. In places along the top edge of the terrace step, the polished plaster could be seen rolling from the face onto what we presume to be a floor. We infer that this terrace of Structure 6F-4/4th, in contrast to the summit building platform wall of 6F-4/5th, was not partially razed when it was buried by succeeding building episodes.

The masons responsible for 6F-4/4th footed the western basal terrace on a foundation of large boulder dry core fill. Their laborers placed this dry fill directly on the lower floor and against the walls of Structure 6F-4/5th (Fig. 9). They then covered the dry rubble with a 10-15 cm layer of a coarse, sticky gray marl mixture. They put the lower terrace 6F-4/4th floor directly over this marl mixture. It appeared to us that they also put the adjoining terrace on top of this ballast layer. This method of floor and terrace construction varies from the one we found on the 6F-4/4th staircase midway up the mound. At the base, the masons formed the face of the terrace step by building up roughly coursed cobbles to the desired height. The method they used on the stair risers involved the use of dressed blocks. At the base, they covered the cobble face of the terrace with a layer of polished white plaster. The construction of this basal terrace was responsible for the partial reduction of the buried 6F-4/5th terrace wall.

To the west of the limit of this sub-floor test in Room 2, but at approximately the same elevation (that is, on the terrace level in front of the range structure), we could observe the top of Terrace Level 1. We postulate that this was also the top of the plaza staircase associated with the construction of Structure 6F-4/2nd. That is to say, we think that the lowermost terraces on the westward side remained in use through phases 6F-4/4th-2nd. So, given the similarities in the elevations of the 6F-4/4th lower terrace floor and the top of the lower terrace stairs immediately to the west--as well as the fact that all subsequent constructions on the locality were built to the east of these stairs--we think that the two were originally part of Structure 6F-4/4th. Clearly further excavation in this area would help clarify this prospect or preclude it.

Our current view of Structure 6F-4/4th, admittedly based on limited exposures, is that it represented a typical Maya public structure of the time. The lack of large living space at the either the top or the base shows that the building functioned in a ritual or ceremonial context. In sum, it was a k'ul na, a temple. Dating of this building is, at this time, still problematic. Ceramically there were only two possibilities for the recovery of sealed deposits from Structure 6F-4/4th: one from the sectioning of the stairs below the Burial 24 tomb chamber floor and a second from beneath the lower terrace floor at the base of Structure 6F-4 in room 2. Unfortunately, the sectioning of the stairs was a small cut and produced no sherds while the materials sherds from below the lower terrace floor have yet to be analyzed Our best guess at this time, pending analysis of the sherd lots, is that Structure 6F-4/4th dates to the Terminal Late Preclassic, probably somewhere between 200 and 300 A.D.

We discovered Structure 6F-4/3rd during the 1992 field season. Our summit test pit revealed the existence of a masonry superstructure. It was probably had a two roomed, tandem-plan with a main doorway on the western side facing the plaza; but only further exposure can determine this plan with certainty. The walls of this superstructure were constructed of 80 cm thick, large stone blocks forming rooms with long-axes north-south and with a central east-west corridor. At the end of the 1992 season we named this Structure 6F-4/2nd. However, based on this season's excavations we now designate this building Structure 6F-4/3rd. We discovered in 1992 that as part of the construction activities of Structure 6F-4/2nd, laborers had removed the roof of this super-structure and stripped the plaster from the walls and from the floor in the central passageway. While these activities may have had some practical benefits, they relate to the ritual termination of Structure 6F-4/3rd as well as the construction of Structure 6F-4/2nd.
As our excavations this season were focused on the west side of Structure 6F-4, we expected to uncover a great deal of the architecture relating to Structure 6F-4/3rd. Our expectations, however, were not realized. This was due to the fact that the west side of Structure 6F-4/3rd was subject to thorough and extensive destruction prior to its internment. While the materials deposited as a result of this destruction and subsequent internment were important and highly informative, their presence came, somewhat lamentably, at the expense of preservation on Structure 6F-4/3rd.

On the summit we found only two terrace steps on the western side relating to Structure 6F-4/3rd. These were formed of roughly shaped stones laid in semi regular courses and then faced with a surface coating of polished plaster. The highest terrace was only a single course high with no evidence of a formal floor on top. The surface of the 6F-4/3rd occupation floor found in the southern room of the summit superstructure in 1992 was 60 cm higher than the top of this terrace wall. Without further excavation to physically link up these two exposures, we cannot decide between two alternative reconstructions. Either this upper terrace was originally as high as the interior summit superstructure floor and then was razed to support Structure 6F-4/2nd; or, alternatively, the terrace was always one course high and lead to another set of steps which then rose to the floor level of the summit superstructure of 6F-4/3rd.

The polished plaster facing on the upper terrace wall of Structure 6F-4/3rd rolled down to the west and became a terrace floor which ran for 1.10 m before arriving at the edge of another, lower terrace. This lower terrace was composed of two rough masonry courses, approximately 50 cm high. At the base of this lower terrace wall a 5-15 cm thick, white, packed marl surface extended 2.20-2.50 m to the west before it ended in the eroded surface slope of the western side of Structure 6F-4. This packed surface was underlain by medium sized cobble dry core fill. At the present time we can offer two possibilities concerning this surface. Either it represents another terrace floor, with the western edge of the terrace lost to erosion; or it represents a construction surface pertaining to the placement of the Burial 24 tomb chamber. Given the massive damage wrought by the Burial 24 construction in this area of Structure 6F-4/3rd, as well as the absence of a prepared, polished surface on this marl layer, we are inclined to favor the latter possibility.

At the base of Structure 6F-4, in the room 2 sub-floor test pit, we encountered what might represent a very small portion of Structure 6F-4/3rd. Against the western wall of room 2, below the 6F-4/2nd wall and above the 6F-4/4th upper terrace step, we detected what appeared to be an unanchored lip of polished plaster (Fig. 10). This section was a little over a meter long and never any more than 7 cm high and 5 cm wide. Additionally, the entire section of polished plaster was burned. We believe this small section is all that remains of the 6F-4/3rd basal staircase or terrace step which was footed on the Structure 6F- 4/4th terrace.

The magnitude of deliberate destruction wrought upon Structure 6F-4/3rd is truly impressive and hampers unequivocal analysis of its design. This building was certainly a ceremonial, public structure and one of the three major temples in the north acropolis. We propose, despite the lack of ample material evidence, that the principle access to the summit was still a main staircase on the western side of the building linking it to the shared plaza of this triadic group. This supposition is based on the small fragment of a tread and riser found at the base of the building and in the observation that the main doorway was on the western side of the summit superstructure.

If the previous building, Structure 6F-4/4th, was an open- summited pyramid, then the design of the summit of 6F-4/3rd registered a major revision (Fig. 11). At the summit of Structure 6F-4/3rd there was now a masonry superstructure. We remain uncertain as to the number of rooms in this building. The eastern-most wall in our 1992 centerline trench was probably a back wall of the Structure 6F-4/3rd superstructure. However, it might also have been a continuation of the encasing wall found on the western side of the summit superstructure, a wall that was built as part of the 6F-4/3rd termination and burial by Structure 6F- 4/2nd.

In this same context of terminal destruction, the roof of Structure 6F-3/3rd is also a problem. Because laborers removed the roof prior to building Structure 6F-4/2nd, there is no way to determine of the type of roof. We presume it was corbel-vaulted or beam and mortar because the interior walls of the superstructure were thick and load-bearing. Related designs in the north acropolis, however, would seem to argue in favor of a vault. The interior spaces in Structure 6F-3, which were roughly coeval with Structure 6F-4/3rd, were all vaulted. The only place at Yaxuna where we have evidence of beam and mortar roofing is in the Late Preclassic Dance Platforms (Structures 6E-53 and 6E-120; excavated in 1991 and 1992).

The incentive for the elaborate termination of Structure 6F- 4/3rd was the placement of Burial 24 in the succeeding phase, Structure 6F-4/2nd. The patron of the new phase located this vaulted tomb chamber in the most important public performance space of the locality: on the east-west centerline of the western face, just to the west of the lower terrace edge and below the level of the white packed marl surface associated with this terrace edge. Thus the tomb and its occupants were put where, in earlier phases of the building, important people stood on the stairway before the summit temple. To anticipate the substantive discussion of the tomb contents (see Bennett in this report), we hypothesize that the internment of the occupants of Burial 24 represented the termination of an Early Classic period ruling family at Yaxuna. Members of this family were ritually sacrificed and placed in their building, Structure 6F-4/3rd. The succeeding building, we hypothesize, served as their sepulcher and also as a palace, a place of public residence, for the people who carried out this sacrifice.

The preparations of the western face of the locality for the construction of the Burial 24 chamber, although extensive and destructive, were fairly straightforward. Laborers dug away all of the grand stairway to the west of the lower Structure 6F 4/3rd terrace wall. As far as we can determine, they removed all of Structure 6F 4/3rd around the area of the Burial 24 chamber. They kept digging until they reached the Structure 6F-4/4th stairs. They footed the Burial 24 chamber on a section of these stairs (Fig. 12). They put a layer of small cobble dry core fill, gravel, marl, and soil level with the top of the uppermost Structure 6F-4/4th tread within the area of the burial chamber (Fig. 13). Then they put a 10-15 cm thick, very compact, white marl surface on top of the Structure 6F-4/4th tread and the fill. Once they had this floor in place, they began to raise the walls of the tomb chamber. The masons worked with roughly shaped rocks and laid them in semi-regular courses directly on the packed white marl surface. They grouted the walls with a mixture of gravel, soil, and marl--very similar to the material used in the interleaving of the walls of the Dance Platforms near the eastern acropolis (Suhler and Freidel 1993: sections 2 and 3). They chinked the walls with small, irregular stones, probably for added stability. Unlike Burial 23 in Structure 6F-3 (Bennett, this report), the ritualists left the walls of the Burial 24 tomb chamber completely bare. We found no evidence of plastering on any of the interior walls. The dimensions of the burial 24 chamber floor were 2.18 m north-south by 1.10 m east west. Wall height from the base to the spring was approximately 1.08 m, and total height of the tomb was 1.40 m (Fig. 14).

The masons designed the entrance at the northern end of the chamber. They built a 58 cm wide (north-south) ledge there at the same height as the vault spring. The ledge was edged by vertical walls and its northern end led to a 30 cm tall riser and tred, presumably the bottom tred of a narrow stairway leading from the ledge to the surface of the terrace above it. These steps and the ledge granted access to the interior prior to the sealing of the chamber. The roof design was such that the ledge or antechamber area was capped by east-west oriented slabs like those used to cap the vault. The masons found this a workable arrangement because this ledge opened immediately above onto the steps leading to the terrace surface. For all intents and purposes, this design was another trap-door feature like those in the Late Preclassic dance platforms near the eastern acropolis (Suhler and Freidel 1993 sections 2 and 3) and like those predicted to have gained access from the labyrinth to the summit plaza on Structure 6F-3 (Suhler and Freidel, this report.)

As mentioned earlier, the vault sprang at 1.08 m above the burial chamber floor. The vaulting continued around the south side of the chamber to encompass all three sides of the chamber. The purpose of the springing of the south wall in the Burial 24 chamber was to facilitate just north and south walls were interlocked with the southern side of the vault. These somewhat unusual vault construction techniques may pertain to structural demands made by the open northern end of the vault where it gave way to the antechamber. The capstones proper ran from the southern end of the burial chamber to a point even with the southern end of the entrance ledge. In fact, the entire corbel process ended at the southern edge of the entrance ledge. The walls to either side of the ledge were vertical masonry constructions which completed the enclosure of the burial chamber but did not support any of the vaulted roof. Across the steps leading into the tomb, the ritualists who sealed it placed three or four capstones slanted upwards north to south against the northernmost capstone of the roof and the on lowest tred of the entrance stairs. They then covered this seal with construction fill and finally by Terrace Level 4 of Structure 6f-4/2nd.

Our discovery of the tomb chamber was made possible by the outward collapse of a portion of the western ledge wall of the antechamber. While clearing Terrace Level 4 collapse we noticed a void in this area marked by the presence of one or two of the capstones used to seal the tomb and by several of the rectangularly worked wall stones of the antechamber. The collapse of this portion of the wall appears to have resulted from the post- abandonment general erosion of the western face of the structure. Certainly we have no evidence of Terminal Classic activity in this area at this level. The strength of the corbelled vault is evidenced by the fact that it did not collapse when a portion of the entrance cap failed. In fact, nothing larger than fine- grained soil, sand, and small pebbles had sifted into the chamber over time. A large talus slope of this material extended from the top of the lowest tread of the entrance stairs down to within 30 cm of the base of the southern wall; this was the only material removed before excavation of the actual tomb itself began.

The Burial 24 tomb chamber was the centerpiece of the termination and burial of Structure 6F-4/3rd and the simultaneous construction of Structure 6F-4/2nd. The construction of Structure 6F-4/2nd represented a complete negation of the primary design features of Structures 6F-4/3rd, 4th, and possibly 5th. These buildings were public temples and, in light of the artifactual contents we have found (Suhler and Freidel 1993), the loci of royal ritual performance in both the constricted space of the interior summit building and on the stairway below. Structure 6F- 4/2nd, on the other hand, was primarily a palace suitable for both ritual and public residential functions. It featured this palace as a vaulted gallery pierced by multiple doorways along the western base of the building (Fig. 15). In the course of Terminal Classic refurbishment, masons blocked off the preserved southern portion of this gallery to create a new single-roomed shrine. We have termed this Room 1 and the area in the palace to the north of it Room 2. The summit temples of the earlier buildings were obliterated, encased in a platform above and behind the roof of the palace. This platform, or the uppermost terrace of the building, supported two sloped, outset masonry walls which have the appearance of armatures for stucco panels. The summit of Structure 6F-4/2nd was otherwise an open and flat surface rising in a series of low terraces from west to east across the roof of the palace.

As described above, Structure 6F-4/2nd began with the partial destruction of Structure 6F-4/3rd. The 1992 excavations demonstrated that ritualists had removed the central passage flooring of the summit temple, as well as the plaster from the walls. They also placed Caches 2 and 3 in the trenched out section of the floor along the centerline inside the temple. After they laid in the caches, their masons built a retaining wall at least along the western side of the temple and filled all the space within this wall and inside the temple rooms with dry rubble capped by a thick plaster surface.

They footed the western retaining wall on a 10-15 cm thick polished plaster terrace floor, Terrace Level 5. The sloped, masonry stucco facade armatures were built on top of this upper terrace floor and against the encasing wall. The armatures were located at the northern and southern ends of the western encasing wall. Differing construction styles were apparent on the encasing wall and the sloped armatures. The construction wall was built of large, roughly shaped blocks laid in somewhat regular courses with the liberal use of small stones for chinking. The armatures exhibited much more precise coursing and the use of smaller and better trimmed stone.

Terrace level 5 extended 1.90 m west where it ended at the edge of a terrace retaining wall which dropped 60 cm onto the surface of a lower polished plaster terrace floor, Terrace Level 4. The Terrace Level 4 floor ran west for 1.70 m and then it was lost in the general unconsolidated collapse which marked the western edge of Structure 6F-4/2nd. The collapse of the western edge of the lower terrace was but one result of the overall collapse of the vaults of the western basal rooms. The collapse of the vaults of the palace also took with them most of the next terrace below Terrace Level 4, the roof terrace level Terrace Level 3 (Fig. 16).

Terrace Level 3 was the surface which marked the visual separation between the upper and lower portions of Structure 6F- 4/2nd. As near as we can determine, this surface was present on at least three sides (west, north, and south) of Structure 6F- 4/2nd. The elevation of this surface was at ca 110.00 m relative to our main site datum and 6 m above ground surface in the plaza. Based on excavations to date, Terrace Level 3 was present on at least three sides of Structure 6F-4/2nd: west, north, and south. On the northern and southern side, Terrace Level 3 seems to have been better preserved.

We cannot be completely certain of our reconstructions here because the corners of the building were not well preserved and therefore it was hard for us to follow the features around to the northern and southern sides from the west. The root causes of this poor preservation appear to have been twofold. Firstly, the exterior corners and edges were areas which received the greatest stress from the mass of the building. As might be expected, given the inviolate specter of Murphy's Law which haunts excavation, corners and edges were two of the vital strategic architectural features needed for reconstruction. Caught between the pull of gravity and the internal stresses of the building, unburied corners and edges succumbed earliest and in the most dramatic fashion over time. In general we have found, that in the excavation of any given structure, exterior corners and exposed edges will exhibit the poorest preservation; Structure 6F-4/2nd was no exception.

Secondly, Structure 6F-4/2nd, while not intentionally buried like earlier phases at the locality, was nevertheless subjected to a great deal of modification during the Terminal Classic construction of Structure 6F-4/1st. As a result of these modifications many details pertaining to architectural features on Structure 6F 4/2nd were either missing or poorly preserved. Some additional excavation will hopefully lead to a clarification in some cases, but in others the evidence is simply gone. Still, we think that the profiles of a section of the southwest corner may show the location of at least the south face of the Terrace Level 4 retaining wall (Fig. 17).

On both the northern and southern sides of Structure 6F-4 we only cleared debris and collapse from the latest construction episodes. The volume and complexity of work on the western side of Structure 6F-4 was so demanding that we confined ourselves to superficial investigations on these other two sides of the building. As a result, the only phases on those sides for which we have information are Structures 6F-4/2nd and 6F-4/1st. While we did clear large areas on these two sides, we are still analyzing the features relationships to one another. We can offer some tentative determinations of building sequences between Structures 6F-4/2nd and 6F-4/1st on the basis of construction styles.

On the western side Terrace Level 3 was originally about 4.8 m wide, extending westward from the base of the Terrace Level 4 retaining wall to the exterior edge of the roof of the palace. Unfortunately, a great portion of this area, including the edge where the Terrace Level 3 would have rolled up to become the riser of Terrace Level 4, was lost when Terrace Level 3 collapsed into the rooms of the palace. At present, our only preserved sections of Terrace Level 3 on the western side were found in the area of the northern and southern corners. The surface of Terrace Level 3 from the area of the northwest corner westward onto the northern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd is much better preserved than on the western side. This is because the northern portion of Terrace Level 3 was laid on solid core fill. Therefore, in contrast to the western roof terrace, where the surface, along with the vaults, collapsed into the palace rooms, the northern side was subjected only to the normal slumping of the terrace edge. The preserved section of Terrace Level 3 continued eastward until we stopped excavation, almost 10 m to the east of the western-most preserved edge of the roof terrace. The formal surface was a 15 cm thick and made of compact sascab with a finished plaster coating in places.

On the northern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd, Terrace Level 3 was 3.8 m wide. As on the western side, this surface rolled up at its southern end to become the terrace face of the Terrace Level 4. At its northern edge Terrace Level 3 dropped down to become a lower terrace face which ended on a packed sascab horizontal surface, Terrace Level 2, located 1.5 m below Terrace Level 3. This lower northern terrace currently has the only means of formal staircase access between Terrace Level 1 and Terrace Level 3.

Terrace Level 4 was rather narrow here on the northern side of building, around a meter wide. Approximately 3.4 m east of the corner of Terrace Level 4, we found a masonry feature built on the Terrace Level 3 floor and against the Terrace Level 4 retaining wall. We do not know the function of this feature. Terrace Level 5 was also present on this side and was also narrow, less than a meter wide. The encasing wall built on top of Terrace Level 5 continued to the east from the northwest corner of the northern masonry armature. Four meters east of this corner the encasing wall made a 40 cm jog to the north and then resumed its run to the east. This jog was mirrored on the southern side. We did not find the northeastern corner of the building before we had to cease excavations for the season. Above the platform made by the encasing wall was the open summit used in both Structure 6F-4/2nd and 6F-4/1st phases.

We followed Terrace Level 2 and the retaining wall for Terrace Level 3 eastward for 14.2 m from the northwestern corner of the palace. The face of the Terrace Level 3 retaining wall was pierced in two places along its cleared length. We discovered a staircase providing access from Terrace Level 2 to the surface of Terrace Level 3 built into the terrace face with its western edge 5.4 m east of the northwest corner of the palace. There were five steps, each approximately 25 cm high by 30 cm long by 2.12 m wide, built of regularly shaped cut stone blocks. Four meters east of the eastern edge of the staircase we found another break in the Terrace Level 3 retaining wall. This corner marked an inset which stepped back 60 cm to the south and became a rough,
unfinished limestone wall. This wall sloped upward and inward from the level of Terrace Level 2 to the surface of Terrace Level 3 and continued 1.5 m east from its western limit before turning back to the north for 60 cm and then turning back to the east where it again became the retaining wall of Terrace Level 3. Beyond the eastern edge of this sloped niche the terrace face architecture was not as well preserved as the first section of the Terrace Level 3 retaining wall.

We are of the opinion that the sloping wall in the eastern niche was at one time a companion staircase to the western stairs. This erstwhile eastern staircase would have been laid onto the sloping face of the south wall of the niche. As we cleared, however, all we found was a plain limestone stela laying against the sloped wall in the eastern corner of the inset (Fig. 18). We think this stela pertains to the Terminal Classic Structure 6F-4/1st construction phase rather than Early Classic Structure 6F 4/2nd. So we surmise that at some point in time the eastern Structure 6F-4/2nd stairs were removed and the space was used for the display of the uncarved stela. We followed the Terrace Level 3 retaining wall for 1.4 m past the eastern edge of the niche but did not find the northeastern corner of Structure 6F- 4/2nd although we were probably very close to it at the cessation of investigations.

The western edge of Terrace Level 2 was also the top step of a staircase which led down to a surface which was probably the northernmost section of Terrace Level 1. These stairs were built against a vertical face which was probably the northern exterior of the palace. There were at least six steps with dimensions of about 30 cm high by 30 cm long by 2.0 m wide, composed of large rectangular cut limestone blocks. The bottommost step was 40 cm high and led to a 1.6 m wide terrace which may or may not have led to an eighth step located 1.3 m east of the top of the riser.
This possible eighth step was represented by a marl hump above the floor. This marl hump, which does line up with the top of the basal terrace exposed in the area of the basal room block, turned out to be indeed the poorly preserved remains of the top step which led from the plaza up the lowest staircase to the top of the basal terrace. The lowest step in the northern staircase also lined up with the last step before the top of the Terrace Level 1. These steps were the end of the plaza staircase of 6F 4/2nd. This staircase ran the length of the western side of the building and provided access from the central plaza level of the North Group to Terrace Level 1 at Structure 6F-4.

From Terrace Level 1, access to Terrace Level 2 was gained by the use of the six steps built against the north wall of the northwest corner of Structure 6F-4/2nd. On the northern side of this staircase we cleared the remains of what was probably the balustrade and retaining wall of the stairs. This feature was in poor condition, mainly because its upper courses were pushed over by the mass of slump coming down the upper levels of the building. From the presence of this balustrade/retaining wall at the northwest corner of Structure 6F-4 we infer that the unexcavated northern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd may have a palace building much like the one on the western side.

As discussed above, we found a palace or range structure along the base of the western side of Structure 6F-4/2nd, with its vaulted roof collapsed in the central room, Room 2. During the Tes of this building were blocked off and refurbished as a separate temple or shrine. We have presently completely cleared this southernmost room (Room 1) and partially cleared for 6 meters beyond Room 1's northern wall. The exterior northern wall of the uncleared section of the palace formed the southern limit of the stairs which provided access from Terrace Level 1 to Terrace Level 2.

The 6F-4/2nd palace was vaulted with the vaults having been sprung 2.3 m above the floor. The palace walls were footed on a terrace 20 cm above Terrace Level 1. We think this higher terrace originally pertained to Structure 6F-4/3rd, as did Terrace Level 1 and the steps below which descended to the central plaza of the North Group. Room 1 measured 5.6 m north - south and 1.84 m east- west and is the only currently excavated basal area to exhibit use during the Terminal Classic. When excavated the room was filled with vault collapse. However, based on other evidence discussed in the following 6F-4/1st section, we postulate that this particular vault collapse was the result of termination rituals on the locality carried out in the Terminal Classic period.When we excavated in it, Room 1 had only one unblocked entrance, located north of the east-west centerline on the western wall. The northern jamb of this entrance was the southern end of a rectangular pier which also functioned as the southern jamb for the next entrance north along the western wall of the 6F-4/2nd palace.

The wall dividing Room 1 from the rest of the 6F-4/2nd palace was placed flush with the northern face of this pier. The placement of this blocking wall left the western entrance of Room 1 off center axis and generally violated the symmetry of the original palace design. In terms of construction, the technique used in this dividing wall (Fig. 19) was quite different from that of the pier. The stonework was cruder and more jumbled. Without this Terminal Classic dividing wall, the Early Classic (6F-4/2nd) version of Rooms 1 and 2 would have been part of an undivided vaulted gallery pierced on the western face by five doorways.

The southern wall of Room 1 was also at one time pierced by a doorway which presumably opened onto the southern extension of Terrace Level 1 at Structure 6F 4/2nd (Fig. 20). This southern exterior wall of Structure 6F-4/2nd represented the southern limit of standing 6F-4/2nd architecture and was later used as the northern wall for Structure 6F-68. Based on this reconstruction and the presence of two Terminal Classic flooring episodes in Room 1 we propose that the blocking of the doorway took place in conjunction with the other Terminal Classic modifications on the Structure 6F-4 locality.

Room 2 of the Early Classic palace is essentially the continuation of the Room 1 space. During our clearing of the southern 6 meters north of the dividing wall we found two more entrances. We have documented at total of three entrances thus far in the palace, all symmetrically placed. Extrapolating further north into the uncleared portion of the gallery yields a probable five entrances. This is significant because five is one of several sacred numbers in Maya cosmology used to lay out multiple entrances in palaces.

Our present opinion is that the space north of the dividing wall had collapsed sometime after the decline in use of Structure 6F-4/2nd, that is to say sometime during the Classic period. All our evidence to date indicates this space was not used during the Terminal Classic. Indeed, we postulate that the construction of the dividing wall was carried out in order to render the remaining standing vaulted portion usable. The ceramics from the collapse north of the dividing wall have yet to yield any Terminal Classic sherds. This is in contrast to the Room 1 fill which yielded ample Terminal Classic sherds from the cleared collapse. In our view, the placement of the Burial 24 tomb chamber was a destabilizing factor in the construction of the palace. The illustration of the eastern wall of the cleared area north of the dividing wall (Fig. 2) shows our reconstruction of what happened at some point in time after Structure 6F-4/2nd construction was completed. Immediately to the north of the face of the dividing wall in the gallery there was approximately one meter of in situ vault spring. Beyond this area, the entire spring and upper surface of the inner gallery wall was missing. That masonry facing of the inner wall was preserved only to a height of less than two meters.

Our excavations in the area of the Burial 24 tomb chamber did not reveal the use of any construction pens or internal mason's retaining walls for Structure 6F-4/2nd. We suggest that, in the absence of such internally reinforcing features, the heavy mass of the well-built Burial 24 tomb chamber acted as a wedge which exerted force downward and outward against this portion of the Structure 6F-4/2nd palace. The result of this pressure was the eventual collapse of the section of the inner wall of the gallery closest to the epicenter of this pressure. Thus we believe the pattern of the pressure and resulting collapse can be seen in the profile of the inner gallery wall north of the Terminal Classic dividing wall. We infer that this natural or unsolicited collapse occurred during a period of abandonment or neglect of the locality in the later Classic period. When the Terminal Classic government was established at Yaxuna, the people who built Structure 6F-68 and added the Structure 6F-4/1st modifications, raised the dividing wall to block off the collapsed portion of the gallery from the southern section where the vault held firm. This vaulted section was then used during the Terminal Classic a shrine.

Evidently the southern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd was the location of a much greater degree of Terminal Classic modification than the northern side. However, just how much Terminal Classic people refurbished the northern side remains to be seen. We know there is a reset Early Classic stela set at the northern base of what we presume to represent Structure 6F-4/1st. Therefore, complete clearing of the north side of the building may drastically change our current view. At present, however, one major difference was that the southern side of Structure 6F-4 was the location for a purely Terminal Classic construction: Structure 6F-68.

On the southwestern corner of the Structure 6F-4/2nd building we found no evidence of a counterpart to the northwest staircase. Rather, the southern limit of Structure 6F-4/2nd defined by the exterior face of Room 1 of the palace with its own doorway. The current state of preservation on the southern side showed no indication of a symmetrical expression of Terrace Level 2 such as found on the northern side. The Terrace Level 4 in this area was very different from what we found on the northern side. We found a section of the southwest corner of Terrace Level 4 (Fig. 17). From the southwestern corner, this southern Terrace Level 4 edge continued for 3.4 m before it cornered to the north. At 2 m east of the southwest corner this Terrace Level 4 retaining wall became much better preserved in the form of a well-laid wall three courses high. This well-coursed wall continued after the corner to the north for another 2.8 m where it cornered to the east. After cornering to the east, the wall became much rougher in its makeup and lost the well-shaped stone facing.

We followed this section of the Terrace Level 4 retaining wall east for 5.4 m before halting the operation without finding the southeastern corner of the building. Three meters east of the intersection between the well-built portion of the wall and this rougher section we found the western edge of some form of masonry armature. This armature was footed on the Terrace Level 3 surface and continued upward to the Terrace Level 4 surface. We cleared 2.2 m of the armature and did not find the eastern edge. The feature itself was composed of the same sort of irregular, rough limestone coursing as the section of wall against which it was built. We suspect that this feature could have functioned either as the armature for a decorated facade or as the core for a set of stairs which would have provided access from Terrace Level 3 to Terrace Level 4 on the southern side. We do not know, however whether this masonry feature pertained to Structure 6F-4/2nd or 6F-4/1st.

It is possible that the southwestern section of Terrace Level 4 was the western balustrade of a broad staircase which rose at one time from Terrace Level 1 on the southern side to Terrace Level 3. While there was a possible staircase remnant which would then have provided access from Terrace Level 3 to Terrace Level 4 on the southern side, we still lack hard evidence for the presence or absence of such a staircase. Construction of Structure 6F-68 would have necessitated its removal. Hopefully we may find data to swing the issue one way or another during work in 1994.

Terrace Level 5 did not continue around the western corner onto the southern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd. However, Terminal Classic constructions in this area have obscured the exact location of the southwestern corner of Terrace Level 5. We hypothesize that it originally cornered at the same location it did on the northern side: even with the exterior edge of the respective masonry armature on the western side. Unfortunately, this southern armature was damaged during Terminal Classic modifications, the southern edge was no longer present. Additionally, during the Terminal Classic a 4 m long wall section was added onto this wall to the south, further obscuring the sequence.

The encasing wall of the summit platform continued above the elevation of Terrace Level 5 on the southern end of Structure 6F- 4/2nd. This platform supported the flat-topped summit of the building in this phase. This southern wall was well preserved and exhibited the same careful use of well-shaped, regularly coursed limestone blocks as we found on the northern side of Structure 6F-4/2nd. Additionally, the platform wall on the south side made the same type of jog as that made by its counterpart on the northern side of the building. Masons added a rough Terminal Classic terrace onto this area, built on top of Terrace Level 4 and against the southern face of the encasing wall. Originally, however, the summit platform wall was exposed to at least the surface of Terrace Level 4.

The latest ceramics David Johnstone found associated with Structure 6F-4/2nd dated to the Early Classic period, Tzakol 2 or 3. We have found no Late Classic Period (Tepeu) ceramic material during our investigations of this locality. This is surprising because Structure 6F-8, a vaulted range structure built on the southwest side of the north acropolis, appears to have been built during the Late Classic Period (Suhler and Freidel 1993). As mentioned earlier, we have found none of the characteristic termination deposits on Structure 6F-4/2nd of the kind which mark the ritually acknowledged end of occupation in buildings at Yaxuna. This is negative evidence, with all the hazards of that category. It is possible that the Terminal Classic modifications at the locality obliterated evidence of such Early Classic termination rituals.

However, based on the data available it appears we have a true ceramic disjunction between the end of use of Early Classic Structure 6F-4/2nd and the modifications relating to Terminal Classic Structure 6F-4/1st. We found the same disjunction in Structure 6F-3 and the same possibility of an abandonment period between the Early Classic and Terminal Classic occupations of the locality. Therefore, for whatever reason, Late Classic public activity in the north acropolis appears to have moved from the large triadic core structures of the Early Classic to the smaller marginal plaza supporting Structure 6F-8 on the southeastern edge of the complex. It is probably significant that Structure 6F-68 was raised on the south side of the locality, for in this way it could face the same general plaza area as Structure 6F-8. Structure 6F-8 may have been in use when the patrons of Structure 6F- 68 arrived in Yaxuna.

Returning to the phase sequence on Structure 6F4, Structure 6F-4/1st was represented by an array of modifications and refurbishment on various surfaces of Structure 6F-4/2nd. These The people who rejuvenated the 6F4 locality used both eastern and western Puuc ceramics and Puuc building techniques (Fig. 21). While these modifications were, in some cases, quite extensive they were generally superficial. Discounting the obvious exception their new palace on the south side, Structure 6F-68, the Structure 6F-4/1st modifications followed the general pattern of Terminal Classic constructions documented at Yaxuna (Freidel 1987). The Terminal Classic people preferred to use preexisting public buildings as the basis for modifications and new constructions. Beyond the residential groups, they rarely erected entirely new platforms.
The architectural style of the Terminal Classic modifications were readily distinguishable from the Early Classic techniques which comprised the bulk of the stone work. Early Classic architecture exhibited the use of smaller, more carefully worked stones which were built into load-bearing walls. Door jambs were formed by this same technique of well-coursed, well-shaped load bearing stones.